Mississippi rolled out the red carpet to motorcoach operators from six states as they gathered to plan for the future success of the industry.
The regional meeting, held in Biloxi, Mississippi, brought together members of the Georgia Motorcoach Operators Association (GMOA), the Alabama Motorcoach Association (AMA) and the South Central Motorcoach Association (SCMA). South Central is made up of Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.
“The turnout was amazing,” Linda Morris said of the crowd of operators and industry vendors who attended. Many attendees signed up for the conference shortly before it started or onsite, according to Morris, who is the Executive Director of all three organizations.
The three-day gathering was hosted by South Mississippi, Coastal Mississippi and the IP Casino Resort Spa. Coastal Mississippi hosted a reception at the Mississippi Aquarium for conference attendees.
The organizations know how important the motorcoach industry is to tourism. In 2019, more than 120 motorcoach tours came to the coast, bringing $3.3 million to the coastal economy.
After a year of COVID-19, Coastal Mississippi wants to bring back the touring business as soon as possible.
“We did it the first time. We were able to let them know that coming to coastal Mississippi is safe,” Coastal Mississippi CEO Milton Segarra told WXXV-TV. “Our partners, our institutions, the government, the counties, the cities, they took care of our visitors, and they love that and they believe in that message.
“Our health care promise that we deployed since day one was one of the key components to make sure to elevate the trust level of our visitors to come and visit Coastal Mississippi, and that’s why we have so many visitors coming and still coming to Coastal Mississippi,” Segarra said.
The regional meeting itinerary was full since five days of activities were packed into three days of education, presentations, roundtables and networking, Morris said.
Highlights included a roundtable on best practices for driver recruitment and retention, and a presentation on crisis management by Lancer Insurance about how to respond in a situation where a motorcoach has overturned.
“It was a very interactive session and a good learning experience,” Morris said.
The three associations honored the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) and the American Bus Association (ABA) for their collaboration since the first days of the pandemic to champion the industry’s interests.
The gathering included Breakfast with the Buses, similar to the one held at the 2021 UMA EXPO in Orlando. A rainstorm required some improvising that resulted in the coaches being moved from the “hot parking lot” to the shade of the hotel’s portico, making it even more convenient for attendees to tour them, said Alan Thrasher, AMA President.
Thrasher appreciated that the itinerary made it easy for attendees to explore the region’s tourism hotspots to provide some inspiration for offering their own tours of the area.
“We had some really good tours of Biloxi and the area,” Thrasher said.