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Dance partners mix it up at TAP Dance

Photo by Bevin Henges

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — TAP Dance 2011, a meeting of travel industry members with the 38 partners of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP), was held June 19-23 at Louisville’s Galt House and drew a delegation of more than 280 attendees from more than 35 states and eight Canadian provinces.

This was the sixth annual meeting of the group, a corporation held by its tour operator members with offices based in Anchorage, Alaska.

“Louisville did a great job for us and our partners are very pleased with the turnout this year by the travel industry — our Preferred Professional Travel Providers,” said Stefanie Gorder, TAP executive director. “The entire event was remarkable and great for business for everyone involved. Our theme this year was ‘TAP, I get it!’ and it worked.

“We say you need three connections to ‘get it,’ and once that happens, the light bulb comes on and you get the concept of TAP. We are all equals in this room.”

The meeting is unique in that “pods” of travel destinations, generally grouped by state or region, meet with individual tour operator partners for 25 minutes in casual appointments in hotel suites. The relaxed pace of the sales meetings makes it different from many other industry events.

“Having that much time with executives from these companies is great,” said Ron McConnell, director of tourism sales and services for the Mobile Convention and Visitors Bureau, who has attended all six TAP Dance meetings. “Our pod was entirely Alabama destinations, so we could get a lot done. When I started attending TAP Dance, I hardly knew these operators. Now, it’s hugs and ‘How’ve you been?’ when we walk into the suite.”

The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau and its partners served as hosts for this year’s meeting, which featured evening events at the Kentucky Derby Museum and on the Belle of Louisville. Tour Southern and Eastern Kentucky sponsored the event on the iconic Kentucky paddle wheeler.

“We’ve been wanting to host this meeting ever since I attended the first TAP Dance six years ago,” said Dineene Bradley, vice president of tourism development for the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “These TAP tour operators are the cream of the crop, and we wanted to expose them to Louisville. People are always pleasantly surprised at how much there is to do here, and we wanted these TAP Partners to experience that.”

A final evening dinner was hosted by next year’s host city, Shreveport, La., and featured signature Cajun cuisine and music.

The Group Travel Leader Inc. hosted the daytime hospitality suite for the meeting; industry representatives were treated to fruit, cookies and beverages when they were not doing sales appointments.

“This is an esteemed group of travel buyers and sellers,” said Kelly Tyner, director of sales and marketing for The Group Travel Leader. “We thoroughly enjoyed having this opportunity to extend hospitality to this TAP Dance delegation for three days while they were in Louisville.

“This is an industry based on personal relationships, and many old friends, plus lots of new friends, were in attendance. We hope to do business with many of them in the months to come,” Tyner said.