This year’s annual American Bus Association (ABA) marketplace was another success, according to ABA president and CEO Peter Pantuso.
Speaking in a video after the event, he told audiences this year’s marketplace, held Jan. 13-16 in Nashville, Tennessee, was “one of the most amazing marketplaces we have ever had.”
The ABA hosts the show in a different city every year, but this was the seventh time it was held in Nashville. Pantuso says holding it once again in the Music City was the highlight of the event.
“We have more operators in town than we’ve ever had before; we’ve had more operators taking appointments than we ever had before, 335, and we had almost 3,000 people come to the show,” he says. “One of the highlights of the show—in fact, the highlight of the show—is to be here in Nashville.”
Participants arrived Jan. 13 at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville to set up booths, followed by a meet-and-greet among vendors, and the show started the following day. Attendees had the opportunity to visit with representatives of various travel and group tour organizations, including convention bureaus, and were able to collect merchandise and sample a variety of food items. Two popular draws were the Circle Wisconsin booth, which offered free cheese samples, and an ice cream booth hosted by the Branson (Missouri) Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Theodore Roosevelt—err, Joe Wiegand of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, dressed to look like the late president—also was there, representing Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the forthcoming Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, slated to open in 2026.
Many states’ convention and visitors bureaus, among other travel organizations such as Circle Michigan, were in attendance, representing destinations across the country. Group Tour magazine also held space at the marketplace. People stopped by to meet the sales team and editor, share highlights of their destinations and attractions, and learn more about Group Tour and its sister publications, Heritage + History and Youth Travel Planner.
On Sunday evening, ABA attendees were invited to the Assembly Food Hall to taste local flavors, then visit the historic Ryman Auditorium to see performances of the Grand Ole Opry. Miniature concerts were performed by country music stars Chapel Hart, Sara Evans, and Chris Janson.
ABA hosted lunches every day for the participants. Here, entertainment also was provided, including performances on Monday of 14 Broadway shows and a patriotic performance on Tuesday with the theme highlighting the “Virginia American Revolution 250th Commemoration.” On Tuesday night, the “Discover Philadelphia” event was held, featuring food and drinks from the next ABA host city.
Next year’s ABA marketplace is scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 4 in Philadelphia.
Pantuso recalled the other times ABA visited Nashville, saying: “Every one of those shows has been spectacular, but this one was really over the top.”
Main Image: The American Bus Association held its annual convention this year in Nashville, Tennessee, drawing group travel organizations from across the country. Credit: Andrew Weeks