Challenge: A few years ago, the management team at the U.S. Travel Association was looking at areas where we could increase member value while managing costs and potentially increase revenue/profit. We did a thorough evaluation of our two educational conferences. The first had a loyal (but narrow) audience that focused on travel research and the other targeted travel destination marketers (broader audience) who were also very loyal to their respective conference. Each event hosted around 300 people and took up an enormous amount of staff management time. As we looked at the growth potential of both conferences, it was clear that the research event had a niche following, but the destination event had much more upside due to the sheer market size of potential attendees.
Solution: We needed to divest ourselves of the research conference and integrate more program elements important to the travel researchers into the program design of the destination event. We assembled a member task force to help ensure we asked and answered all the right questions to obtain member buy-in.
Shortly thereafter, we sold the research event to an association whose mission was oriented primarily to travel research executives, thus freeing up our staff resources to focus entirely on growing the destination conference content and program. Next, we built a new work plan that enhanced the event's relevance with the goal to increase participation in the destination marketing conference.
Results: We reduced our cost structure while improving the efficiency/effectiveness of our staff program team (who worked on both events nearly simultaneously). Today, this destination marketing conference is widely recognized as a best- in-class event, attracting more than 1,000 travel executives from across the country, member attendee satisfaction scores consistently exceed 90% and bottom-line contributions have nearly tripled.
I have had the pleasure of working in the industry with Gary for almost 30 years. From his early days as a sales professional at Stouffer Hotels, to a leader in hotel operations with Marriott Hotels and most of my time spent working with him closely at the U.S. Travel Association. Gary is one of the most well-rounded hospitality and tourism leaders around. His passion for any challenge and opportunity in front of him has consistently moved the needle in all that he has tackled. I would highly recommend Gary to lead any strategic initiative in the tourism sector.
Chuck Bowling, President & COO-Mandalay Bay Resort