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Everyone has that one person in their circle; that trusted individual you can go to for informed guidance, sage advice, valuable experience and more. That person who never fails to bring fresh ideas to the table and challenges what has always been in order to build something better.

In the group travel industry, these are the leaders who have risen to the surface as folks who are always willing to try new things, bolster innovation within the industry, drive others in a positive direction, and are recognizable among group travel professionals as someone who can be relied upon.

We asked our readers to share who among their industry peers should be recognized for their efforts in this realm. Those who were selected to be among the 2022 Influencers of Group Travel were featured in a recent issue of Groups Today. Keep reading to get to know them!

 


 

Margo DeRouchie
National Sales Director | Pennsylvania's Americana Region

After returning to college later in life and securing an internship with the Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau, Margo DeRouchie was quickly bitten by the tourism bug.

She was eventually hired as Member Relations Coordinator and promoted to National Sales Director—a position DeRouchie thrives in.

"My ultimate goal is to provide exceptional service and experiences to our customers," DeRouchie explains. "Not only do I want them to plan a return trip to our area, but I also want them to spread the word about their experience to others. I package itineraries for group tours, facilitating RFPs and site visits, connecting sports rights holders to the appropriate sports facility, or gathering information for visitors or people relocating to the area."

DeRouchie prides herself in helping visitors, hospitality partners, and prospective partners of Pennsylvania's Americana Region Visitors Bureau.

"I am incredibly passionate about promoting tourism to the Greater Reading area; at tradeshows, on our website, on social media, through publications, phone requests, and talking to visitors at our visitors center," DeRouchie said, emphasizing that she's honored to help others in the group travel industry expand their horizons to keep the industry moving forward.

"We've all been in the same boat at one time or another. I love what I do, but I know that starting in this industry can be daunting—there's so much to learn! I try to read as much as possible and share that knowledge with anyone who may need it," DeRouchie said. "Sadly, we lost so many incredible tourism experts due to this devastating pandemic! I'm happy to help and continue to influence the group travel industry in any way that I possibly can.

"We need to design more appealing itineraries to capture younger generations. This group likes experiential tours, outdoor adventures, beer, wine and distillery trails, hands-on experiences, and educational, sustainable, social impact and service trips. It's a market we really need to tap into so we can expand the group travel industry."

DeRouchie acknowledges that she wouldn't be where she is today if it weren't for the knowledgeable tourism experts that surround her.

"I'm also thankful for our tourism partners," she said. "Without them, we wouldn't be in the group tour market."

When it comes to steps others in the industry can take to influence their own circles and communities, DeRouchie says it's vital to communicate, educate and collaborate.

"Build better packages that entice your community to act like visitors in their own backyard by working together," she said. "Reach out to the local city and county, including churches, clubs, cultural groups, organizations and educational institutions. Community members need to become ambassadors of their destination in order to cross-promote activities and offer pleasant experiences, enticing visitors to come back again."

As travel and the industry continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, DeRouchie says she'd love for everyone to realize how important the tourism industry is and to not take it for granted.

"I think it was a real eye-opener as to how important it was to be able to travel freely, since the pandemic shut the whole world down," she said. "I would definitely like to see a generational platform geared toward the younger groups. I think it's pertinent to get in front of the younger generations in order to continue growing the group tour industry. We need to be more respectful of one another and learn from each other, especially since LGBTQIA and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are on the forefront."

To read more about the rest of the 2022 Influencers of Group Travel, click here.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

 

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