After several years of planning, the 2013 Travel Exchange took place in Orlando, Florida, January 20-24. Created by colocating the NTA and United Motorcoach Association (UMA) annual conventions, this new industry event drew approximately 3,600 delegates, including more than 1,100 group travel industry buyers from tour and motorcoach companies.
A ceremonial dropping of the wall between the two convention floors on Monday afternoon symbolized the new interaction there between the packaged travel industry and the motorcoach industry.
“The energy has been high, the buzz has been great, and we’re thrilled with the outcome,” said NTA president Lisa Simon on the convention floor. “You envision this for so many years, and then you take the wall down between the two shows, and it just worked. That was a great moment.”
“This is just the beginning,” said UMA president Vic Parra. “Our job is to help our members be successful, and this is a huge step in that direction. The bus operators and manufacturers, the tour operators, the suppliers — it’s all about growing the pie for everyone in this room.”
Both officials saw the new Travel Exchange as a nod to the future for their industries, a future that includes younger travelers and a youth movement within the industry itself.
“We’ve had some interesting sessions already,” said Parra. “Our older panelists are used to getting up in the morning and checking their logs. The younger panelists are getting up and checking their Facebook pages. They’re connecting with their customers every day right off the bat.”
“We’re planning for the youth movement now,” said Simon. “This industry is moving toward special-interest groups, affinity travel, younger people who want to travel with people who like the same things they do. We have tour operators over there looking at much safer equipment for their smaller groups than the minivans they may have been using.
“What is today — and what is tomorrow?” Simon asked rhetorically. “That’s what we’re looking at here this week at Travel Exchange.”