Ask the Exec: Peter Pantuso
It's safe to say the travel industry, along with the rest of the world, is changing. Along with these changes are evolutions in the way we think about our day-to-day operations, approaches to self-care and ideas for future growth and expansion.
To get some expert insight from an industry veteran with years of leadership wisdom, Groups Today caught up with Peter Pantuso, president & CEO, American Bus Association, for the first interview in our new Q&A series, Ask the Exec. The series serves as an opportunity to sit down with some of the most recognizable faces in industry leadership to get their perspectives on travel recovery, mental health, industry innovation and more. Keep reading to learn what Pantuso had to share.
Groups Today: What opportunities do you see for the industry to build back better in the wake of the pandemic?
Peter Pantuso: If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that we have to be nimble and be able to provide services that our customers want and need instead of just a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all model.
There is a pent-up need for travel and getting out again. Now we just need to customize the right experience they want: It will be more personal, tailored and potentially smaller to include close friends and family and individuals with similar interests.
While group tours of every size will continue to happen, you will also see smaller multi-generational family and friends tours. We will see more "bucket list" trips, as people have been cooped up for so long and they don't want to wait anymore for those special trips. People are also focusing on wellness trips and trips that are good for them and the environment.
GT: When it comes to sustainability, how can leaders and business owners ensure they're taking the proper steps to move the industry forward in an environmentally conscious way?
PP: The environment has come front and center for everyone. Continuing to eliminate single-use plastics and harmful cleaning chemicals is still good practice. Partnering with companies that can help offset your carbon footprint is a good way to help the environment, but you must make your customers aware of what you are doing and be assured that they will appreciate those efforts.
We must also be constantly making customers, the media and politicians aware that traveling by motorcoach is always the perfect choice for potential customers as they look to be greener. Motorcoach travel is the greenest form of transportation.
GT: What's something you've done to benefit your mental health since the pandemic began?
PP: I have a few outside interests that keep me grounded when I'm not at work. I have a weekend cabin that always has chores and projects. In good weather, I try to find time to get out on my motorcycle. I also like to read and play music regularly.
GT: Similarly, how do you recommend businesses and organizations ensure their teams are prioritizing their mental health after the traumatic couple years we've had?
PP: You've got to understand that everyone has handled the stress of the past two years differently. Keeping in constant communications with your team to understand their needs and how they are balancing work, family, school schedules and all the other pressures is the first place to start. Making certain that you are building flexibility into the traditional work environment is important, not only to ensure your team members are not further burdened, but also to ensure that they continue with you and are able to perform at the highest level.
GT: What's one prediction you would make about the industry in the next two years?
PP: Travel will continue to grow, albeit somewhat hampered by inflation. The motorcoach industry and group travel market will continue to recover and will be stronger than ever. The airlines are starting to use motorcoaches for short haul trips; I think that trend will continue to grow, especially as they try to meet their carbon targets.
GT: As we move forward, what do our readers need to know about ABA/the motorcoach industry?
PP: We are coming back stronger than ever. Those companies that survived the past two years will see phenomenal success in the years ahead. There will be a lot of consolidations and acquisitions going on for the new few years as the dust settles from the pandemic. But this industry is so versatile and resilient.
As an association, we remain very strong with a strong membership and significant resources that helped us survive and in the future will help us thrive as we look for additional ways to support our members and the industry.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.