ABA Marketplace brings together buyers, sellers

By David Hubbard

As I write this ABA Marketplace 2012 is winding down its week in Grapevine TX, staged at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Conference Center.

The American Bus Association Marketplace hosts this premier business event for the group travel industry, and is heralded for bringing buyers and sellers together in pre-scheduled seven-minute appointments that boost profits for both tourism and the charter tour industry. In addition to the quality appointments, Marketplace offers professional education seminars and unique networking opportunities.

Additionally, the Product Pavilion showcases coach- and tour-related products and services on the exhibit floor to the more than 320 operator companies who attend Marketplace. With the addition of the Product Pavilion, Marketplace is a one-stop shop for the group travel and motorcoach industry to build business relationships.

ABA offered a few statistics for this year’s event that give a clue to its benefit and influence. At last count, before Marketplace opened ABA disclosed more than 136,000 appointment slots — 58 possible appointment slots per seller delegate.

There were on average (and perhaps more at the close):

  • 29 DMO delegate appointments
  • 27 lodging delegate appointments
  • 29 attraction delegate appointments
  • 26 receptive operator delegate appointments
  • 26 associate delegate appointments
  • At least 761 motorcoach operators registered to date from 324 unique companies

BISC Winter Meeting

The ABA Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) conducts its winter meeting in conjunction with ABA Marketplace. Its mission is to develop and promote methods, materials, and procedures to improve motorcoach safety. This dedicated group of security, mechanical, safety, operational and maintenance leaders meet regularly to discuss issues and innovations in areas of safety, regulatory bus and coach compliance, mechanics, technology and security.

The presence of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Deborah Hersman was the highlight of this year’s gathering. Her address served to reinforce the concerns of every safe and compliant operator, and to remind anyone who might be asleep at the wheel of the NTSB’s Most Wanted List. Under the umbrella of Occupant Safety, Hersman outlined the critical changes the board deems necessary to reduce transportation accidents and save lives.

She began her remarks by appropriately assailing the smaller percentage of rogue curbside operators who are creating havoc for everyone in the industry, and praising the majority of operators for their effort “above and beyond the call” to run safe and protect and their passengers. Hersman cited their voluntary purchases of additional safety equipment that include fire suppression systems, three-point seat belts, tire pressure monitoring and electronic stability control (ESC).

As a prelude to the FMCSA Hours of Service Listening Sessions to take place the next day, speaking to human performance, Hersman admonished her audience to be the ones to stand up and draw the line on trip requests that compromise safety. She emphasized the need to encourage and monitor, if necessary, the off-duty behavior of drivers to ensure they are rested and legal when they climb behind the wheel.

“The safety line must be clearly defined for everyone — customers and employees — to see and understand,” said Hersman. “It must be the line that no one crosses. Schedule for safety.”