Six Months Into USTOA’s “Year of Engagement”

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USTOARecently, editor Rick Shively conducted a phone interview with Terry Dale, president of the United States Tour Operators Association, and talked about the USTOA executive’s first mid-year report.

Rick Shively: Can you tell me about your new mid-year, USTOA update?

Terry Dale: I decided to do kind of a mid-year update because I positioned this as the “Year of Engagement,” and so for the first six months, I thought it was worth it to go out and talk about the progress that we’ve made.

RS: Can you tell us about that?

TD: First and foremost, we’ve rebranded USTOA and I think what’s really critically important about this is that we wanted to better differentiate between our active and associate members so that we have more clarity about who’s covered under the million dollar assistance program and who’s not. That was an exercise that took well over a year with the support and cooperation of the team over at Myriad Marketing. We just wanted a more fresh, current look [i.e. logo] that’s still classic and traditional, which USTOA certainly is. We’re very pleased to have that project accomplished.

And then, we had our first ever Congressional Caucus. For many years, government advocacy has been the number one priority for the association, but we’ve never really taken the step to lay the groundwork and to start building an actual pro-active government program. So this caucus actually brought over 50 of our members together for a day and a half in our nation’s capital. We had really productive business and we had great meetings with the Department of Transportation. We did an airline industry event where we talked about how we could better collaborate and what the barriers were to sales.

RS: What else?

TD: We did our first ever 40th Anniversary Sweepstakes promotion—four weeks, $40,000 in prizes with one prize being given each of the four weeks. We had amazing success with a 900 percent increase on our “Like” pages and our high unique visitor numbers with one week running more than 250,000. So it was a great way for us to build a core of consumers that we can engage with and that will hopefully add an awareness into who we are and what our mission is and our members too.

So that’s under our belt in the first six months, and it’s also a great step forward. We’ve also done two Business After Hours [networking events] where we had over 200 members attend in New York and over 100 in Los Angeles and we’ll do a couple more later this year. We’re really creating opportunities for our members to interact and build more of a year-round partnership, as opposed to a relationship that’s really focused only on the conference.

RS: I remember last year you talked about increasing the participation of the associate members. How has that worked out?

TD: That’s going very well. The Business After Hours programs that I mentioned are really about getting the associate members to rub shoulders with the active members several times a year, as opposed to just at the conference. We’ve also invited the associates to participate in our new webinar, so there are numerous ways we’re now touching the associate members and getting them to interact with the active members.

RS: So what are the goals for the rest of the year?

TD: For the remainder of the year, the really critical project we’re going to be involved in is, we’re going to be designing a completely new web site. We want to make sure that it’s as good as we can make it because in this day and age, it’s as important as a business card. Many times this is the way the consumer learns about your business for the first time and we want to make a far more robust web site for the travel agent. So that’s really a critical project for the next six months, as well as getting ready for the conference on Dec. 6 in Hawaii.

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