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ABA Marketplace draws 3,000 to Philadelphia

Courtesy ABA

PHILADELPHIA — The American Bus Association’s Marketplace 2011 drew approximately 3,000 travel industry delegates to Philadelphia Jan. 8-12, for its five-day schedule despite a major winter storm that progressed toward the East Coast midweek. However, Philadelphia was only moderately affected, and few travel schedules were disrupted.

“My objective for this meeting as marketplace chairperson this year is pretty straightforward,” said John Percy, president of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. “I want every delegate to feel like they’ve had the opportunity for solid, bottom-line results for their company or destination. That’s why we are all here.”

ABA staggers its business appointment sessions in such as way that industry members can arrive and depart by category. However, many come for the entire conference to take advantage of social events and networking opportunities throughout the week.

Destination marketing organizations and public sector destination marketers had appointments with bus and tour operators on Monday, and attractions and lodging companies met with those buyers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This is the most appointments in one day that I’ve ever had in this industry,” said Karen Pryor, sales director of the Eureka Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission. “This is a very productive marketplace in that respect.”

Major evening events included a gala hosted by the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau and its partners at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Monday night. The event featured aerialists, musicians and, of course, the stately museum’s acclaimed art collection.

The next evening, delegates were whisked away by motorcoach across the Delaware River to enjoy a dynamic event at the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey as guests of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Association and its partners.

Watch video interviews from ABA conducted on site by publisher Mac Lacy at They include: Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of ABA; John Percy , president of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.; Jeffrey Vasser, CHA, president of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Bureau; Karen Pryor, sales director of the Eureka Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission; Todd Stallbaumer, CTIS, consumer and trade marketing manager for the Oklahoma Tourism Department; and Stan Hess, owner of the United States Hot Air Balloon Team, a Pennsylvania-based hot-air balloon company.

One “industry show” coming?
At Monday’s luncheon on Jan. 10 in Philadelphia, ABA chairman Jim Jalbert called for one industry show for the “group travel, tour and motorcoach industry.” His statement was printed the following day in ABA’s convention newsletter and called for NTA and UMA to join ABA in creating one unified show.

“One show will give the members, tour and bus operators, travel suppliers, bus manufacturers and others a bigger, better show while saving the members multiple registration fees, travel costs and time away from the office,” said Jalbert. “I asked members to tell me what was on their minds this week, and the concept of one show in one location was top of mind.”

NTA president Lisa Simon, who attended part of the ABA convention, said that the public references to the idea in Philadelphia surprised her.

“There have been discussions about this idea, but we were operating under a confidentiality agreement. We had discussions on this between us, ABA and UMA at our convention in Montreal.

“Now, we have an opportunity to discuss it openly with our members. We plan to get a survey out next week and begin that process.”

ABA president Peter Pantuso said that he supports the concept and ABA’s intent in Philadelphia was to move discussions forward.

“If we violated anything in our agreement with NTA and UMA, we apologize,” said Pantuso. “We just want to move these discussions forward for our members and the industry.”

For a video interview with ABA president and CEO Peter Pantuso, visit