By Shebby Lee
I have often described my annual attendance at ABA’s Annual Meeting & Marketplace as an opportunity to recharge my batteries. Tourism is a very demanding (yet rewarding) profession, and we all need a little boost now and then. ABA’s Annual Meeting & Marketplace fills that role for me.
But if you think the only value of ABA’s conference is the marketplace, think again. You are leaving so much on the table if you dash into the event, take your appointments, and spend the rest of your time shopping, or—horrors!—go home after your appointments are over!
I am aware many suppliers and DMOs are feeling budgetary constraints that make it difficult to attend the entire event. But I feel so strongly about this issue that I’m going to make my pitch here and now (feel free to relay this to your boss, if you think it will help): If you are not taking full advantage of all the resources to increase your capabilities as a tourism promoter*, you are missing a huge opportunity.
A big benefit that suppliers have over buyers is the time they can spend to attend seminars, and, therefore, learn valuable information about the industry and gain tools for their business. Sessions led by top-rated motivational speakers and experts in business and industry-specific issues are included in the registration fee, so take advantage of them and then put what you learn to work!
Many small operators such as myself don’t have an assistant appointment-taker and are chained to their desk throughout the week. But thanks to the flexibility that ABA has incorporated into the appointment-making process—coupled with early availability of seminar scheduling information—I can usually work my appointments around seminars that I consider must-attends. While there are certain speakers I would go to hear read the telephone book, I also choose seminars that offer ways to improve my business practices, my marketing, my personal skills, or just light my fire! This is information that could not only increase my bottom line, but also make my life better. (There is a reason that seminars include a fair share of motivational speakers.)
And if you’re not already aware, ABA members in every category (motorcoach and tour operators, CVBs, suppliers, and more) attend seminars and contribute to the dialogue—it’s not only about the presenter or moderator! Start a conversation, participate in the discussion, ask questions. It’s yet another way to expand your knowledge and understanding of the industry while making crucial contacts in the travel world.
ABA is not just a way to promote new attractions, events, and places to the group travel industry. It’s the networking throughout the trade show, appointments, seminars, and many social events that spark creativity and solidify relationships that make the ABA experience so crucial to your annual calendar—and the ABA family so vital to your business.
See you in a few days in Charlotte!
*Yes, in this instance, we are all tourism promoters, but the previous sentence was getting too long, so I resorted to a footnote. You’re welcome!
Historian and writer Shebby Lee owns Shebby Lee Tours Inc. of Rapid City, S.D. Her tours focus on the history and cultural heritage of the West. To contact Lee, visit www.shebbyleetours.com.