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Influencers of Group Travel: Greg Dotson

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!

 


 

Greg Dotson
Manager, Group Sales | Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

An experienced sales and marketing professional, Greg Dotson is passionate about the arts and bringing that magic to groups of all kinds. He has served in many different roles throughout his career, including valuable experiences in multiple areas of the tour & travel industry, which have led him to where he is today at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

"Before arriving at the arts center, I spent many years as a cast member at Walt Disney World, performing and managing shows in the theme parks and beyond," Dotson said. "I gained experience as a student tour operator planning group travel at Kaleidoscope Adventures. I represented attractions throughout North America as the National Sales Manager for Merlin Entertainments. And, most recently, found more ways to culture as a third-party ticket reseller with Tiqets."

We asked Dotson how it felt to be someone folks in the industry could turn to for guidance and reassurance.

"It makes me feel great—it makes me feel like I have gained their confidence over the years, and I think a lot of that comes from the experience that I've had in all the different categories of the group travel industry," Dotson explained, noting that he's able to pull from his diverse experiences to inform his position with the Dr. Phillips Center. "It means the world to me that people feel comfortable reaching out to me for any type of guidance regarding group travel."

Dotson sees the immense value in volunteering and community involvement, demonstrated by his service on the Board of Directors for SYTA and on the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), where he helps produce the single largest fundraiser for the arts and raises money to support students experiencing homelessness and poverty within the district.

"Social media and staying connected online is a simple way those in our industry can influence others in their own communities and circles," said Dotson, emphasizing the focus on positivity—not negativity. "We must learn to communicate in ways that are different than we did before, continue evolving and growing as the industry does. The group travel industry is getting younger and younger, so it's vital we learn to market to audiences in the way they'll understand and appreciate the information."

Dotson also believes that any opportunity you can find to volunteer is a valuable way to give back to the community.

"I will often volunteer at industry trade shows in New Member Orientation to answer questions and to make them feel more comfortable," he said.

When it comes to the future, Dotson says the industry at large must continue to educate others about the importance, value and necessity of group travel.

"A degree in hospitality is only valuable when you can apply your knowledge to industry experience," he said. "There is coursework available through the Student & Youth Travel Association where you can learn the essentials of student travel and the American Bus Association is regularly updating and sharing industry tips that can be applied to any type of business."

Dotson hopes to continue influencing the group travel sphere through education.

"When I first started at the Dr. Phillips Center, and similar to when I've worked at other places, I spent time talking to our front of house colleagues—our guest services representatives, security, valet parking—to give them an understanding of what my role is, what my needs are and how we can help each other," Dotson said. "I encourage those in our industry to spend time doing that because that will not only help others understand the importance and value of group sales, but also continue building relationships and trust within your company which is essential to growing within your role."

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

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

 

Five Minutes With ... Deana Ivey

President | Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp

Deana Ivey, who was elevated to President of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp (NCVC) in early 2022, has been an integral force in shaping the Music City brand, creating and attracting major events, and marketing Nashville around the world. Ivey joined NCVC in 1997 and previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to her work at her current organization, Ivey served the tourism industry for 10 years in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Influencers of Group Travel: Wendy Dobrzynski

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!

 


 

Wendy Dobrzynski
Executive Director | Circle Wisconsin

Boasting over 30 years of experience in the group travel market, Wendy Dobrzynski started her career as a Bank Travel Program director where she created, marketed and escorted numerous one-day motorcoach events and extended tour programs both domestically and internationally.

Her extensive experience in the group tourism market, both as a sales person and group travel leader, has brought renewed enthusiasm and fresh ideas to promoting Wisconsin as an ideal destination to the group travel industry.

"I love this market and am more than happy to share my experiences, advice and enthusiasm," Dobrzynski said. "It's part of being a leader to encourage, mentor and support your colleagues so they'll succeed. This market is underappreciated and overshadowed by other segments and as we move forward, I'll continue to use my voice to be a proponent for the group and motorcoach industry, which I believe has great untapped economic potential."

As the industry continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Dobrzynski shared some perspective on how she thinks the industry can continue to grow and evolve.

"Everyone who knows me knows my soap box issue has been and remains to be that word we all don't like to talk about: tracking," she explained. "The pandemic has shown the vulnerability of staffing and funds dedicated to marketing and sales to the group tour industry. This market is overshadowed by other segments because of trackability."

When it comes to suggestions for how others in industry can influence those in their own communities and circles, Dobrzynski suggests that everyone in the industry get on a motorcoach and take a tour, whether it's simply a day trip or something more extended.

"If you experience it, you'll have a better understanding on how group tours impact a community and the benefits of group travel," she said.

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

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

 

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.

Influencers of Group Travel: Margo DeRouchie

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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