The NATSO Show 2011

Key leaders in the travel plaza industry and their suppliers came face to face at The NATSO Show 2011 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in February, exchanging ideas and uncovering new solutions to improve their operations. Read on for some highlights.

Grassroots Efforts Are Key to Blocking Commercialization

In an effort to increase their budgets, states nationwide are working to overturn the federal ban on rest area commercialization. What’s more, Congress is moving forward on the next highway reauthorization bill, and could overturn the ban unless truckstop and travel plaza owners make their voices heard and tell lawmakers about the detrimental effect commercialization would have on their businesses. That is the message operators sent to attendees at The NATSO Show during the Advocacy Town Hall and Fellowship Breakfast (pictured above).

“What we are able to do is put a real face on it—real jobs and real people,” said NATSO Chairman Bobby Berkstresser. Berkstresser owns two locations in Virginia and recently met with the lieutenant governor when Virginia tried to move forward with its commercialization efforts.

NATSO Government Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Lombardi encouraged members to make themselves heard. “We’re only as strong as the voice of our message getting out there,” he said.

Operators can take to Capitol Hill May 10–11 during NATSO’s Day on Capitol Hill event. “The hallmark of NATSO’s government affairs is the grassroots involvement of members. Your lawmakers want to hear from you. You are the people who vote for them,” said NATSO Chief Executive Officer Lisa Mullings. To register for NATSO’s Day on Capitol Hill, visit www.natsodayonthehill.com.

Mobile Technologies Allow Operators to Connect with Customers

Today’s technology is making it easier than ever for travel plaza operators to connect with their customers in real time. Panelists at The NATSO Show agreed that mobile apps— special purpose software that is installed on a smart phone—are one of the fastest and most direct ways travel plaza operators can communicate with drivers.

Brian Sevy, chief executive officer of Affinity Amp, told attendees, “I believe this technology has the potential to help us develop closer relationships with our families, our friends, the people we work with and our customers.”

In December, CAT Scale Co. launched its mobile app, and it now has more than 2,800 downloads. Heather DeBaillie, marketing manager for CAT Scale, explained that the app allows users to find CAT Scale locations, set their favorite locations and visit the CAT Scale website. What’s more, with GPS technology in iPhones, users can search by their current location, then drill down to get driving directions or view a map.

Robert Lake, senior vice president and group publisher of Randall-Reilly Publishing, said 35 percent of drivers today utilize a smart phone and 70 percent have a laptop. He expects that number to flip-flop over time.

For an individual travel plaza to make the most of its app, the app should provide value to the user. Sevy said operators may want to use their apps to offer discount coupons or promote daily specials. He said he is also working on ways to turn mobile apps into driver loyalty programs.

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This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.

The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. If you are a member and not receiving Stop Watchsubmit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a memberJoin today or submit a request to receive additional information.

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