NORFOLK, Virginia — More than 250 delegates gathered in Norfolk, Virginia, June 2-6 for TAP Dance 2013, among them more than 50 tour operator delegates from Travel Alliance Partners (TAP), a group of 31 partner companies. They were joined by destination representatives from across North America who used TAP’s unique pod system for presenting regional travel options to those companies during 25-minute appointments.
“More than ever before, I think this year has felt like we’re a family,” said Stefanie Gorder, TAP’s executive director, during a pool party hosted by Peter Pantuso of the American Bus Association. “Our hosts from Virginia have done an incredible job of making this group feel special.”
Sandi Pufahl, owner of Fancy-Free Holidays in Naperville, Illinois, who is in her second year as president of TAP, stressed the cohesiveness that TAP’s partners have developed in supporting one another.
“TAP is not a name, it’s a partnership,” she said. “We’re a company owned by 21 equity partners and 10 affiliate partners, and we have each others’ backs. There are 31 tour operators here this week that are moving forward together.
“This is an invitation-only event,” said Pufahl. “Each partner can invite up to 10 destinations, and we shoot for five returning delegates and five new ones. That invitation is a stamp of approval.”
Over the course of the four-day meeting, delegates were treated to three evening events: the first in Virginia Beach, where they enjoyed dinner and dancing, plus lots of options to bike or walk on the city’s boardwalk; the second at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, where the animals were complemented by train rides, caricaturists and musicians; and a final evening that included the TAP Dance Shuffle, hosted by next year’s destination, Reno Tahoe USA and its Nevada partners.
Other meals were sponsored as well, including a luncheon for TAP partners hosted by Lisa Simon of NTA. The Group Travel Leader (GTL) Inc. joined with Travel Portland and Travel Oregon in ensuring that the TAP hospitality suite was always open. Kelly Tyner and Stacey Bowman of GTL provided refreshments and treats during appointment hours, and the Oregon hosts manned the bar in the evenings.
On Tuesday, TAP staff member Erin Pennings left the group to oversee the production of that week’s Tap Into TAP Tuesday at Two, a destination webinar that Gorder called the best innovation the group has created since its Guaranteed Departure program. Each Tuesday, that webinar introduces travel agents and others in the industry to a new TAP destination they can offer their clients.
That same afternoon, TAP’s operators treated all Preferred Professional Travel Providers, meaning suppliers, to a helicopter ride over Norfolk and its impressive waterfront.
For more information, visit www.travelalliancepartners.com.