Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Automated Marketplace Pioneer Oscar Fowler Retires

Oscar Fowler became the “voice” of group travel marketplaces sometime in 1978. Anyone who has attended marketplaces such as NTA, Select Traveler or Travel South Showcase over the past three decades instantly recognizes the Tennessee native’s smooth baritone.

“That concludes your current appointment” and “please proceed to your next appointment” are part of the lexicon today for group travel events across the continent. But before Fowler became the “voice,” he created the computerized program itself that matched buyer and seller requests

“An NTA tour operator in Knoxville approached me about needing an appointment scheduling program,” said Fowler, who spent years as a professor in the University of Tennessee’s business school. “Jim Host was running NTA at that time, and they were willing to invest a little bit to create the program, so I built it. Jim said ‘You have to come out and answer all the questions,’ so I met them out in San Diego in 1975, and that’s how we started.

“Jim always liked to get his money’s worth,” said Fowler, “so about 1978, he said, ‘You’re out here already, so you might as well call these appointments out, too.’”

“Nobody in the industry had even thought about doing this, so it was a big step,” said Host. “Oscar and I were joined at the hip for years after that. He’s one of the best human beings I know. He’s a big UT fan, and I’m the biggest UK fan in the world, so we’ve had a lot of nondescript wagers over the years on ballgames.”

In subsequent years, Fowler took the program to the Caribbean Hotel Association, the Alaska Division of Tourism, Des Turismo del Sud/Latin America and Travel South USA. In 1996, Charlie Presley and Mac Lacy hired Fowler to do their new conference, BankTravel. Eventually, he did all the conferences owned or managed by the Group Travel Family.
Fowler credits Teresa Burton, the Group Travel Family’s vice president for conferences, with a huge innovation a few years back.

“It was Teresa’s idea to alternate sellers’ appointments one on, one off, and that was a big positive for all the suppliers,” he said. “Where they once complained about open appointments, they immediately liked having six minutes between them to gather their thoughts and make their notes.”

Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.