ABA, UMA and NTA respond to convention questions from BUSRide
One show: To be or not to be?
By David Hubbard
There was a bit of flare up among the ABA, UMA and NTA in late September following an early discussion on the vague idea that all three might come together for one annual convention. A volley of heated exchanges ensued, all touched off over a simple open question as to which of the two trade shows, ABA Marketplace or UMA Expo at Travel Exchange, would one attend if it came down to choosing.
Sensing that this abrupt disruption has left an otherwise interesting proposal unresolved, BUSRide posed two questions of its own.
Here are unabridged written responses from the association leaders:
If there were to be one over-all motorcoach and tour and travel exposition that included the ABA, UMA and NTA, what would your organization gain by participating?
While this collaborative effort is apparently off the table for now, do you believe the concept is viable enough to resume discussions in the future?
Jim Reddekopp Jr.
NTA Chairman and CEO
CEO/Owner, Earth Bound Tours
When you ask about gains for our organization, we’re talking about gains for NTA members. That is the question we considered when we decided to join with UMA for Travel Exchange. There is a desire within some in the industry for one show, and that’s why we took the first step with UMA. We’re bringing together all the components of the industry, and together, NTA and UMA can offer more of everything to our members: more buyers, more sellers and more contacts.
To give you an idea of the expanded business our members will see, let me share some figures reported to us by NTA members: Last year at the NTA Convention, they booked more than $78 million in new business alone. The breakdown is an average of $58,000 in new business for tour operators, $45,000 for tour suppliers, and $40,000 for DMOs.
And this year, with UMA bringing some 600 tour and charter buyers, NTA members are looking forward to gaining even more new business in Orlando.
You know, when we started working on this project three years ago, we determined that there’s very little overlap in the membership of NTA and UMA, so by bringing the two shows together, we’re essentially doubling the size of each independent show. That’s one reason the match makes so much sense for NTA members.
NTA will not close the door on discussing a partnership that could bring our members more and better business, but for right now, Travel Exchange is our focus. NTA has been holding conventions for 60 years, but there’s always something new. What’s new this year—in addition to UMA, of course—is the Member Market Pavilion, where delegates can go for product information about specific markets, such as faith, family and adventure travel. And we’ll also have leaders’ forums on those markets, too, with experienced professionals sharing insights and strategies. There is already intense interest in those forums. One more feature that’s drawn attention is the Hispanics in Travel Caucus, a project we’re conducting jointly with ASTA.
The idea of an NTA-ABA collaboration bubbles up from time to time. What we share is that based on analysis NTA has conducted, 80 percent of NTA’s tour companies—and more than half of NTA’s suppliers and DMOs—attend NTA’s convention only.
So, while we do have a cross-over in membership and attendance, it’s not the majority. And even for those members that do attend both shows, it isn’t a slam-dunk benefit. By attending a combined show, they may actually receive fewer appointments than when they attend both the NTA convention and the ABA show. That said, for those members who do attend both shows, a combined event would save them time and resources.
For something that seems so simple on its face, the practical considerations for merging the two shows are enormously complex. Adding a third association to our Travel Exchange structure would be, to say the least, challenging.
Chairman, American Bus Association
We believe that the biggest beneficiaries to one show are the members. They have told us loud and clear that it is harder and harder to continue attending multiple “like” shows, especially now that they have been moved close to the same dates. Not having to be away from family and work, pay additional travel, lodging and meal costs and duplicate registration fees is what we hear most from them. We also believe that one show also will still maintain the financial viability of each organization.
ABA was disappointed to see that NTA and UMA “terminated” the discussions before we got to the true focus of what, where and how to structure a joint show. As far as ABA is concerned we would like to continue a dialog that is open and transparent with member input communications.
Chairman, United Motorcoach Association
Amador Stage Lines, Inc. / Amador Trailways
First, it’s important to understand that UMA did not bring an end to these discussions. ABA’s attorney, Rick Schweitzer, made it very clear in his communication to us that our terms were “a non-starter.” Given ABA’s unwillingness to accept a course of action that was necessary based on ABA’s decision to break past agreements, we see no way fruitful discussions could occur unless ABA agrees to the terms we put forth. Understand that we we’re not asking ABA to abide by any provisions that we wouldn’t be willing to accept and live by as well. These terms are both fair and appropriate and, again would apply equally to all three associations. Both UMA and NTA had agreed to the terms and were ready to move forward.
More importantly, though, Travel Exchange is already the industry’s premier event. It brings together every component of the group travel process. This includes the companies that finance and insure the bus operators who carry the customers, to those that manufacture the equipment and components, to tour operators who put together the trips, to the hotels and restaurants that house and feed the customer, and all the way through to the wonderful destinations and attractions the customers enjoy. The key element that makes our partnership with NTA both exciting and compelling is that we all serve the same customer. As such, Travel Exchange serves as a forum to help every component understand its role in delivering a high quality, safe experience for the customer. Beyond this, Travel Exchange will serve as a catalyst to build knowledge and understanding among the components to ensure that everyone makes money in the process.
Lastly, Travel Exchange is open to everyone in our industry. We welcome ABA members with open arms.