For Vince Accardi, building a competitive and vibrant tourism sector in Canada has been the overarching theme of his longstanding career. As president of both the Ontario Motor Coach Association (OMCA) and Motor Coach Canada (MCC), Accardi knows a thing or two about Canada’s group travel industry. His associations, which are both not-for-profit, membership-based organizations, serve the purpose of enhancing the growth and vitality of the group tour industry and member organizations through education, events, awareness, and advocacy at the provincial and federal levels.
“One of my first full-time jobs was for a tour operator selling ski and golf vacations, which specialized in group travel and motorcoach tours,” Accardi recalls. “Motorcoaches are vital to sectors like tourism, which includes traveling for leisure, sport, and business events. As soon as the opportunity came up to work with associations that represent businesses involved in motorcoach travel, I had to get involved. Prior to OMCA and MCC, I was the vice president of stakeholder relations and acting CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.”
We chatted with Accardi about the state of the industry, his associations, and what groups can expect at this year’s OMCA Marketplace event.
Q. The group travel industry has faced a few challenging years since the onset of COVID-19. How would you describe the current state of the industry and its future?
A. Traditionally, group travel has been a segment of tourism that helps destinations become established. Post COVID-19, we are seeing this pattern reemerge. Motorcoach groups are returning to established destinations first and are stronger than other segments of tourism.
Q. What trends are you noticing in the industry right now?
A. There is a great deal of pent-up travel demand in the system, however, there is still some consumer hesitancy to book trips well in advance. This last-minute booking cycle is making it very challenging for tour and motorcoach operators alike. Hotels and other group travel suppliers need to secure business, but early cut-off dates for tour groups paired with last-minute bookings make it a challenging and, at times, a risky, business environment.
Q. How have the needs of travelers evolved over the last several years? What about the needs of tour operators?
A. Travelers are expecting and returning to a “high-touch” level of service. Online bookings and the uncertainty caused by the now- removed COVID-19 travel restrictions caused concerns, and at times, confusion, for consumers. They are now looking to travel professionals to help them navigate the booking process. Tour operators are now doing more with less, as labor challenges have been difficult on the industry. We lost many great colleagues to other careers, and it has been difficult to find people to fill vacant positions.
Q. What are the challenges (or opportunities!) the motorcoach industry is facing, and how do you and your organization(s) intend to address those?
A. The biggest opportunity for our sector is staying top of mind with our destination partners and governments. Motorcoach travel is a huge economic driver for communities. We need to continue to remind decision-makers of how important our business is to the economy. Our associations do just that—we are always reminding governments and our partners how valuable our sector is to the economy and why they should be investing into our sector.
Q. What are your industry’s needs? What types of resources are tour operators looking for right now?
Tour operators are looking for new product and to build new connections. To accomplish this, our 2023 OMCA Marketplace will host a mini marketplace, featuring new, local product that will help enhance their itineraries, plus we have built in more networking and educational opportunities for those who are new to the group travel business.
Q. Tell us about the types of resources OMCA provides to its members?
A. The association provides members with strong business connections and opportunities. We have robust government advocacy present and represent members at the provincial and federal levels of government. We also have amazing educational and networking opportunities for those professionals who are new to the business or have been here a while. Plus, we host a variety of business events like our OMCA Marketplace, which helps members build their tour business and bottom line.
Q. Are there any trends, topics, or stories related to group travel that aren’t being talked about enough?
A. Our industry needs to be a bit “less Canadian,”meaning we need to be bold and to talk about and remind people how important group travel is to our economies. Everyone noticed when our bus groups stopped coming to their destinations and everyone celebrated their return. Let’s make sure we always stay top of mind!
Written by Courtney Birchmeier
Main Image: OMCA Marketplace; Credit: OMCA