|"Dancing Matt" Harding (left) and USTOA's President and CEO Terry Dale|
WAIKOLOA VILLAGE, Hawaii - It's usually during the final receptions of association meetings where you find hundreds of tourism officials letting their collar down and cutting a rug for a bit.
But during the ongoing 2012 United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) Annual Conference & Marketplace, association members had good reason to dance before lunch on the first day of the conference was even served.
USTOA President and CEO Terry Dale made the official announcement on Thursday that the USTOA will be entering an exclusive partnership with YouTube sensation Matt Harding or, as millions of people throughout the world know him as, "Dancing Matt."
Harding, a Connecticut native, is an American traveler, video game designer and Internet celebrity who has gained internet celebrity status for his videos depicting himself doing a fun, goofy dance in just about every destination in the world.
According to Dale, the USTOA will present a 30-45-second promotional spot that will air every time Harding's latest videos is viewed on YouTube. Dale says the USTOA and Harding will pick 10 destinations to film from, featuring Harding and USTOA members doing the dance. Dale said the partnership is initially for one year, but plans to extend that are very likely since the feedback from USTOA's members has been extremely positive.
And members got a little practice Thursday as Harding and Dale lead a packed ballroom at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in a fun, group dance.
Harding told attendees he got the idea for the videos while he was visiting Vietnam and one of his friends dared him to do his "goofy dance" on a corner. He put the video up in 2005 and was shocked that it had gotten millions of hits, so he decided to do it all over the world and has since gotten around 80 million hits on YouTube in the nine years he has been making the videos.
"Me doing this goofy dance expressed how people feel or want to feel when they travel," he says. "The simple joy of exploration was summed up for people when I did it."
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more updates from our ongoing coverage of the 2012 USTOA Annual Conference & Marketplace.