For twelve years this was the scuttlebutt every time I attended an industry show or conference. Suppliers were doing all the work and the tour operators got all the stuff! I must admit, this phrase slipped from my mouth a time or two as well… It was difficult watching the tour operators receiving the free breakfasts, all the goodies, and great dine-arounds while the suppliers seemed to be forgotten, pushed aside and footing the bill to boot!!! Many times this way of thinking got in the way of appointments and networking on both sides. Operators seemed disinterested when suppliers sat down for their seven minute appointment. Suppliers went their own way during lunch and evening events leaving networking in the dust. Where was the balance? Is there a balance? Can a balance be met? First and foremost this needs to be said, “Without suppliers supplying attractions, restaurants, hotels and destinations to visit, the tour operator would not have a business. After all, where would they take their customers after loading them onto that beautiful motorcoach? Without tour operators and those beautiful motorcoaches full of customers, suppliers would have a lot less business and many would struggle to fill their seats and beds. Dare I say – We Need Each Other”!!! Once we in the industry really grab hold of this little tidbit of information, shows and conventions would take on a whole different direction!
There was a time when tour operators felt entitled to receive it all and I imagine there are those out there who still feel this way. After being a supplier for twelve years I actually felt awkward when I became a tour operator. There was this paradigm shift even with suppliers I had know for years. I was still the same person but now, I was a “tour operator”. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that it felt great the first time I went to a show as an operator. I was somewhat looking forward to all those perks I knew were coming my way however I realized quickly that the demands on my time and attention as well as all the perks I received were more than I expected and more than I could handle!!
It seems a shame that organizations must “bribe” tour operators to attend shows so the suppliers who foot the bill are satisfied with the opportunities to sell their properties. Shouldn’t doing business be enough of a draw for everyone to attend? Shouldn’t this be the motivating factor to draw suppliers and tour operators together under one roof?
Perks are nice – we all have felt the excitement of receiving that surprise gift but when perks are over done and do not include everyone for the good, they lose their luster. A question to be answered – how do we as an industry work together for the good of all?