In an era when many conventions and events are being canceled, the Midwest Bus & Motorcoach Association decided to stick with its planned annual gathering.
The good news is that, not only was the July event a success, but turnout was better than
expected, with 53 attendees, including 20 operating members and nine vendors, according to
Cherie Hime, the regional association’s Executive Director.
Planned long before the global pandemic disrupted the industry, the 2020 convention was held in Bettendorf, Iowa, on July 27-28, at the Isle Casino and Waterfront Convention Center.
Hime credits the hotel for following social distancing protocols and guidelines from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. Seatings and tables were spaced apart, and hand sanitizer
was readily available. MBMCA also provided free masks from FEMA to attendees.
“We shortened the schedule and made it more of a time to get together and network. We shared
ideas, discussed the current situation and talked about new ways of adapting,” she said.
Shortened by a day to a day-and-a-half gathering, the meeting skipped the annual driver rodeo
and tech training sessions.
National organizations United Motorcoach Association and American Bus Association
participated through WebEx.
“We normally would have around 80 people,” Hime said. “I was actually surprised that we had
about 70% attendance.”
Turnout was higher among operators, with many new members attending. MBMCA President Dave James believes the success of the event showed that people, in general, are eager for an opportunity to come together in person.
“Everybody had a good time in that regard,” said James, owner of BRT Charter Service in Brecksville, Ohio, just south of Cleveland. Started in 1943, his family has owned the businesses since 1971, and now has a fleet of 14 motorcoaches.
“The casino gave us a few rules,” James said. “We all had masks. We were actually handing out masks that we had received from FEMA so everybody who needed a mask had one. Everybody managed to maintain social distancing and still get comfortable with everybody and then go from there.”
He added that vendors participated to show support for their customers and the industry as a whole.
Hime added that she hopes the success of the MBMCA meeting inspires more groups to follow suit.
“I think that we were sort of the test monkey, if you will, for the rest of the industry, to demonstrate that you can still have meetings,” she said. “We were within that 50-person meeting range, which was within state law guidelines. Hopefully, people will see that you can get together with your smaller groups and do it in a safe manner.”