As the group travel market’s first trade show of the year, the American Bus Association is a great test of one’s industry knowledge and New Year’s resolutions (insider tip: stay off the show floor if you resolve to reduce fatty treats). This was my 12th ABA and each year I become more impressed at the quality of the programming, commitment from the host destination (thanks Cleveland!) and strides the group sector is taking to stay relevant in the competitive travel industry. Here’s what I learned from this year’s show:

I’m not nearly as productive as I could be.

Apparently I’ve been doing everything backwards, at least according to Joshua Seth, author of Finding Focus in a Busy World. I attended his high-energy seminar and picked up a number of valuable tips on how to reduce stress, be more productive, and balance work and life better. Top takeaways include chunking important work in uninterrupted, 25-minute periods followed by a five-minute reward break; systemizing your morning routine to eliminate decisions about what to eat and wear; tackling most important tasks early (eliminates decision fatigue later in the day); and focusing on the process, not the goal. I’m ready!

Itineraries are on everyone’s mind.

The educational seminar I hosted on the show floor broke attendance records (sadly, I didn’t get a plaque). Before DMOs and tour operators, I covered the “7 Deadly Sins of Itinerary Creation” and
the “7 Heavenly Virtues That Can Save You.” We focus a lot of attention on itineraries at Leisure Group Travel because we know how important they are. It was encouraging to see our colleagues following suit.

The charter bus landscape is shifting.

Call it the Uber effect; as ride-sharing services have taken a bite out of their customer base, limousine companies are upsizing their fleet by adding full-size motorcoaches, thus increasing competition (and lowering prices) in the bus charter market. At the same time, new services like Rally Bus, Sub Out, Wanderu, Shofur and Flix Bus are modernizing the way people book charter, event and point-to-point motorcoach services. While this has buoyed many small coach companies that didn’t have tech to compete, confusion over who’s friend or foe is dominating member forums.

Print’s not dead.

I already knew this, but it’s good to confirm beliefs, right? For the first time I can remember, we nearly ran out of collateral. Foot traffic at our booth was steady all four days, with delegates picking up copies of our latest custom publishing guides (Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin), and our home- grown titles – Leisure Group Travel, Student Travel Planning Guide, our always-popular Group Travel Directory and others.

Optimism reigns.

Depending on where you are in the country, the price of oil, soybeans, or the state of your dysfunctional local government, the current economic climate may be challenging. That being said, people I talked to were overly optimistic about future prospects. If you’re down, there’s nowhere to go but up; if you’re up, the sky is the limit. 2017 should be a good year.

Gatlinburg is ready for a comeback.

While devastation was significant in some areas due to the historic wildfires in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the town of Gatlinburg, plus nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, are open
for business and ready to welcome your groups. Let’s get back there.

Tech really can be a lifesaver on tour.

Imagine you’re leading a tour group in Washington, D.C. You’re loading the bus and counting heads, but where’s Johnny? Don’t panic, there’s an app for that! The folks at Group Travel Videos this spring are adding a new feature to their popular photo-sharing app that locates all members of your group, so if you have stragglers or lost travelers you’ll know exactly where to find them.

In between handshakes and hugs, hellos and how-are-ya’s, there are always  high doses of wisdom being transmitted across the show floor. As long as you’re willing to listen.

Happy Traveling in 2017!