After a two-year hiatus, over 1,800 individuals including motorcoach and tour operators, manufacturers and suppliers, and the travel industry met in Grapevine, Texas to attend four concurrent industry events, starting with the National Bus Traffic Association Meeting and Trailways Conference and leading up to BusWorld North America and the American Bus Association’s Marketplace 2022.
Marketplace 2022 was a success for several reasons: positive attitudes, personal [re]connections and powerful Wi-Fi, of course. The theme was “Business Bound” and the conversations reflected the grit and entrepreneurial spirit that propels this industry forward. From new connections to familiar faces, we believe that this year’s in-person conversations at Marketplace will cultivate into real long-term business relationships.
Photo credit: ABA
The reality remains: the bus and motorcoach market is far from recovered from the pandemic but improving. There are many changes on the horizon for the industry – from new technologies, regulations, and funding opportunities. Across the nation, business is returning at different rates and in different ways. Bus operators have shown their resilience by, in some cases, radically changing how they do business to address the market needs.
We interviewed three industry-leading figures at Marketplace 2022 about their take on this year’s event and all of them reflected on the power of in-person networking.
Trisha Fridrich, Director of Business Development and Marketing at All Aboard America Holdings: “It’s incredible how powerful in-person connections can be (over virtual). Video chat has driven up the frequency of engagements but seeing old friends after two years was the highlight of Marketplace. Those micro-engagements simply can’t be replaced in a virtual world. Moving forward, we are bound to live in a hybrid world– it’s a disservice to not participate in both.”
Jen Stanley, Vice President of Sales & Special Projects at Fullington Tours: “We got comfortable with virtual networking and meetings (which seemed to work), but Marketplace reminded me of the power of human interaction and the importance of face-to-face communication. Reunions, introductions, and first impressions were much more meaningful. In addition, the annual gathering renewed the collective strength of our industry.”
Lia Zegeye, Senior Director of Membership at ABA: “After a challenging couple of years, the motorcoach and group travel industry pulled together in Grapevine to help advance the industry’s comeback. It was clear that the demand to create positive sales and marketing opportunities, as well as the demand to meet was certainly long overdue. Based on the initial feedback, a lot of future business was being written on the floor which means more demand for future travel experiences.”
Together with my team, Gabriel Lopez-Bernal, Ross Colvin, and Adriana Hemzacek, we took to the Marketplace floor for four and a half days of networking. Motorcoach operators have grown weary of cheap, imported solutions which merely ‘check a box’. The cost of supporting low-grade technology, and the vendors that peddle such goods, outweighs the benefit. Meanwhile, tour operators want to revitalize the passenger experience through new, digital amenities. They intend to push boundaries aiming to enhance industry standards to forge a new, data-driven path towards consumers.
We had the opportunity to educate bus manufacturers and owners about the industry-leading onboard mobile Internet gateway, the Icomera X3. We showcased GoView, an ABA Destinations Magazine ‘Best of the Best’ in the Entertainment category, the industry-leading onboard entertainment portal which hosts Hollywood movies, TV series, and eBooks directly on the X3. After experiencing GoView hands-on, booth visitors immediately tied the solution to their direct customer demographic, colleges/sports teams, tour groups and commuters – the end-users of quality transport services seeking an elevated onboard Wi-Fi and immersive entertainment experience.
For more information about the solutions that we showcased at ABA Marketplace 2022, feel free to reach out to our sales team at [email protected]. The next stop on our industry tour is Long Beach, California for the United Motorcoach Association’s Annual EXPO.