Last week I had the opportunity to get out to Tampa, Fla., for UMA Expo 2011, and, I've got to say, things are looking encouraging.
While there is still much debate on the seat belt issue and whether passengers will wear them even if it is a federal mandate for operators, there is little debate that federal regulations put in place and, in the pipeline, will indeed help make motorcoach travel safer and improve the customer experience, overall.
Also, it appears that many operators are starting to see the light at the end of tunnel, as we begin to finally see the economy picking up. Many operators I spoke with at the Expo are cautiously optimistic that the downturn will soon be history and business will again pick up. In fact, many said they already have more bookings set for this spring and summer at this point, than they had around the same time last year.
The most encouraging sign I saw at Expo, though, was during the Young Guns session, where five operators all under the age of 35 spoke frankly about their experiences and how they see the motorcoach industry growing in the future. The mere presence of those five guys is proof that the motorcoach industry will continue to move forward with a new vision and a renewed vigor and. With the older guard serving as mentors, it seems fairly safe to bet that the next generation will help take the industry to the next level.