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News Analysis: Terry Dale to Head USTOA

December 1, 2010 By: Susan Young Travel Agent

What's Ahead? What's the Top Priority in a New Era?

Terry Dale has an exciting new executive gig as president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), effective in January. Coming off a highly successful seven-year run as president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Dale is the “ideal person” to move USTOA’s strategic plan forward and help implement its goals, according to John Stachnik, USTOA’s chairman.

With a breezy, upbeat and personable style, Dale, also formerly executive vice president of NYC & Company and former president and CEO of the Greater Providence Convention and Visitors Bureau, is known for his ability to bring together executives with diverse opinions to create unified vision and strategy.

Industry experts also say Dale is savvy at marketing, skilled at educating government officials about challenging issues, and effective at pushing an organization to move with the times by utilizing social networking, Web and technology tools. For example, Dale fielded incoming questions by Twitter to cruise executives during a general session at CLIA’s annual cruise3sixty conference in Vancouver this year.

At CLIA, Dale also was a strong champion of agents and enhanced trade sales opportunities. CLIA’s World’s Largest Cruise Night, now both an agency event as well as a virtual sales platform, generated more than $47 million in expected sales and more than $6 million in potential commissions during October.

Dale’s leadership style and results-driven approach appear well-suited to USTOA’s current needs, according to tour industry experts.

“The tour industry is in the process of reinventing itself to meet the challenges posed by the Internet,” Scott Wiseman, president of Abercrombie & Kent USA, told Travel Agent. He said the value of the product is fundamental, yet many consumers still don’t understand the benefit of using a travel professional versus doing it themselves, particularly younger travelers.

“Terry Dale played a key role in transforming the cruise industry from simply a mode of transportation to a ‘vacation at sea,’ and he is someone with the vision to lead our industry into the future,” said Wiseman.

This is certainly a year of change for USTOA. Bob Whitley, its long-time president, died unexpectedly after complications from surgery in May. Whitley was an institution at USTOA, having served in various capacities there since 1978.

Ready for a new career opportunity, Dale announced in June that he would be leaving CLIA when his contract expired in December. Stachnik described the match of Dale and USTOA as a “perfect fit.” Dale will develop USTOA’s strategic marketing initiatives; manage the association’s lobbying efforts on behalf of tour operators; work with travel industry leaders to identify mutual challenges and opportunities; and serve as a USTOA ambassador and spokesperson.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to take a fresh look at the association’s role, and how it can continue to maintain its vibrancy, relevancy, and serve as an advocate for travel now and into the future,” said Dale.

What will Dale’s top priorities be at USTOA?

“My number one priority, not surprisingly, will be to listen to as many of the members as I can make contact with,” Dale said, noting that he’s attending the USTOA conference next week in New Orleans to do that. “In all honesty, I don’t have the depth of knowledge [of the tour industry’s intricacies] but, then I didn’t have much background in cruising either when joining CLIA.”

Dale said listening to members and allied members will give him a good sense of what works and what areas need improvement.

“I can tell you that in talking with the board, and in the interviewing process, their number one priority – also a high priority for me – is advocacy [education and lobbying], whether on the federal, state or international level,” Dale noted. “There is a desire to be more proactive and have greater awareness.”

In addition, Dale said that “near and dear to my heart has always been the travel agent piece with education and training.” While he says agents shouldn’t expect a replication of CLIA’s training program – as that extensive program was developed over three decades – Dale hopes to put everything on the table, look at options, and be “very thoughtful” about what can be addressed and how.

Dale will move from South Florida back to New York City early next year. He’s looking forward to enjoying the vibrancy of New York once again, but will miss Florida’s weather. That said, he’s excited about the new USTOA opportunity.

Marc Kazlauskas, president of Insight Vacations, said he’s thrilled to have Dale onboard at USTOA: “He brings a wealth of knowledge and incredible enthusiasm to the role. Agents love him and he brings such credibility as well.”

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