By Mac Lacy
An Internet sensation leapt from cyberspace to the real world, going viral in a Waikoloa, Hawaii, ballroom, during the 2012 United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) Annual Conference.
At the conclusion of the opening session offered for 700 attendees of the conference on the Big Island of Hawaii, USTOA president and CEO Terry Dale shared a video. He introduced it as a piece that summed up well the benefits that travel and travel producers create for the world at large.
Perhaps intentionally, Dale offered a somewhat understated introduction of the session’s final piece.
A fascinating five-minute video titled “Dancing 2012” followed — a compilation of dozens of dance routines from every corner of the globe, all led by an unassuming young man named Matt Harding. Harding’s Internet dance routines — popularly known under the name of “Where the Hell is Matt?” — are among the most-watched videos on the Internet, garnering more than 80 million views to date on YouTube and www.wherethehellismatt.com.
Harding’s video is uplifting, inspiring and addictive. Its soundtrack is the song “Trip the Light,” an equally compelling piece of work. The delegates in the room watched and listened as destination after destination came up and rose to applaud at the video’s conclusion.
Afterward, Dale wondered aloud where in the world Matt might be then. As soon as he did, the Internet star stood from the middle of the room. Amid cheers, he made his way to the stage for a quick interview with Dale, who then encouraged delegates to come up and get photos and videos with Harding. That’s when the room erupted and Harding danced along with dozens of small groups as seasoned travel professionals from across the world became adoring fans of an unlikely hero.
As it turns out, USTOA has struck a deal with Harding to have him represent its members in 2013 and to travel to at least 10 different places in the world to tape new dance routines. USTOA will also create video tags for the pieces that will promote the use of their member operators as travel providers.