From February 26 to March 2, nearly 2,000 motorcoach operators, vendors, and even their families flocked to St. Louis for a few days of the education, networking, and a sold-out show floor that the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Motorcoach Expo has become known for.
Representing Chauffeur Driven at the annual event were Director of Events Jess Pavlow and Business Development Manager Rickie Roberts. Other familiar industry faces included an array of bus manufacturers, maintenance services, and financial and insurance outfits that offer services to both the bus and corporate sides of the ground transportation industry.
With many returning favorites punctuating the multi-day conference, the 2017 Expo kept its roster of offerings fresh with brand-new and back-by-popular-demand events. The debut International Driver Competition brought together 26 drivers from 16 operators—boasting a combined 150 years of crash-free driving—with Stephen Davis of AT&T Charters being named 2017 Grand Champion.
An array of offsite networking opportunities was also a highlight of the five-day affair. Starting with a welcome reception near The Gateway to the West’s iconic arch and ice-breaker at the whimsical City Museum, show-goers had plenty of opportunities to meet and mingle with old and new friends alike during social events, a site visit to nearby the Wandalia Bus Lines facility, auctions, a golf tournament, a Sneak Preview After Party held at the iconic Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and the Go Motorcoach fundraiser.
Now in its second year, the Go Motorcoach Campaign helps operators come up with new and innovative methods of generating public awareness regarding the many benefits of bus and motorcoach travel. Proceeds from the party—held at the Thaxton Speakeasy with an appropriately prohibition-era theme—help fund the ongoing initiative.
The yearly Solution Sessions, which provides answers to motorcoach operators’ real-life questions, saw the return of its popular small fleet operator track, as well as the introduction of a technology track that rounded out its marketing, finance, and operation concentrations. Additionally, more than 200 vendors offered information about their vehicles, services, and equipment to best serve the needs of the industry and the demands of its passengers on the 160,000-square-foot show floor.
The 2017 Motorcoach Expo was a particularly poignant one, as it marked the final conference under UMA President and CEO Vic Parra. After almost 20 years of heading the association, Parra will retire March 31. The longtime president and CEO was honored throughout the Expo—notably with a life-size cardboard cutout with which attendees could pose for photo ops—and the Tuesday night UMA Leadership Awards Ceremony was the capstone celebration of Parra’s dedication to UMA, complete with a video, speeches, high emotions, and a thundering ovation.
“It takes a special person to run an association of 900-plus members, all incredible people with a wide variety of personalities—well done, my friend,” UMA Board Chairman Dale Krapf said of Parra, whom he went on to describe as a tireless advocate for the bus and motorcoach industry.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about this industry when I started,” Parra added, emphasizing how strong relationships are one of the industry’s hallmarks. “In fact, I knew very little, but so many of you helped me learn so much. The friendships I’ve made will stay with me. They are so important to me.”
The 2018 UMA Motorcoach Expo will be held January 6-10 in San Antonio. The association’s next event is its annual UMA Capitol Hill Days in Washington, D.C., from April 25-26.
For more information about the annual conference and the UMA itself, visit motorcoachexpo.com and uma.org, respectively. [CD0417]
Notable Firsts and an Emotional Goodbye at the 2017 UMA Expo