The Ontario Motor Coach Association (OMCA), based in Toronto, Ontario, formed in 1929 with the purpose of expanding and supporting the transporting of persons via motorcoach, promoting cooperation amongst the industry, advocating for the motorcoach industry, and promoting safety, convenience and betterment of the motorcoach industry. Stevie McKeeman, communications and marketing manager, shares insight into the organization and its impact for group travel planners growing their businesses.
Q. Tell us a bit about OMCA
A. Since its inception, OMCA’s membership grew from a few like-minded motor coach operators to bus products and service providers, tour operators, and tourism suppliers catering to group travel. Today, tourism suppliers make up the majority of OMCA members. The promotion and protection of the group travel industry have become a major part of the association’s advocacy.
Q. Describe your role with the organization. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A. As the communications and marketing manager, my role is to keep our members and partners informed about the issues and opportunities that directly affect their businesses and to promote the association to potential members to build a stronger group tourism network. The most rewarding part of my job is getting to know the members and helping them create strong, lasting connections with each other.
Q. Are you seeing any changes in group tours in the wake of the pandemic?
A. Safety and flexibility are key factors in planning a successful group travel package in the wake of the pandemic.
Q. How should group planners modify their offerings to meet these changes?
A. Maintain the now familiar health and safety protocols to protect the health of travelers, have flexible cancellation policies to accommodate illness and unexpected pandemic mandates, and have staff available to help travelers navigate the lingering travel restrictions at the land border. These remain vital to any group tour.
Q. What is the outlook for group tours going forward?
A. We are seeing a sharp increase in demand for group tours. The complexity of travel today incentivizes travelers to rely on tour operators for their knowledge and expertise to avoid the stress of navigating travel regulations. The pent-up demand from travelers stuck at home has resulted in a “revenge tourism” trend with travelers booking more extravagant packages or taking that bucket-list vacation while they can.
Q. How does OMCA help tour operators?
A. OMCA has recently done extensive advocacy to educate government officials on the specific needs of tour operators during pandemic recovery, and the importance of the group-travel industry to North America’s economic redevelopment. We help tour operators directly by offering numerous opportunities to connect with like-minded suppliers that can offer the products and services that build a successful travel package. We understand that a high-quality experience for travelers relies not only on the tour operator’s professional excellence but also on the tourism suppliers’ high-quality service in accommodating their groups. Our annual marketplace is a great example of how we connect tour operators with the suppliers that can help their business grow—and at zero cost to the tour operators!
Q. OMCA Marketplace 2022 is scheduled for Nov. 13-16. Describe some of the benefits of attending this conference.
A. OMCA Marketplace is professional speed dating for tour operators. There are three days of back-to-back 8-minute appointments with destinations, attractions, accommodations, and other tourism suppliers resulting in a year’s worth of research in less than a week. Registration is free for all tour operators, and OMCA members receive a full rebate for their hotel stay. It is a zero-risk, exceptional-rewards experience for tour operators.
Q. Is there anything else tour operators should know about OMCA?
A. True to the Canadian stereotype, OMCA staff and members are the friendliest around. The tight-knit community generates a supportive environment in which we all grow together. Our OMCA Marketplace is unlike other industry events that cater to thousands of attendees—the intimate environment of the OMCA Marketplace stimulates closer relationships and durable networking connections.
Main image: All-delegate evening Marketplace reception hosted at a local gallery.