Like the entries to most travel experiences, Broadway’s doors are shut tight, and no one knows when the next curtain will rise. The uncertainty is scary … the way forward so clouded in debate … and trying to keep it all straight is frustrating. I know those are feelings that we all share in this nightmare.
And yet, I know we can be hopeful.
The relationship between Broadway and travel is great: 65% of Broadway’s audience comes from beyond the New York City metro area, and many of those dearly appreciated theater-goers make their way into their seats with a little help from a friend, who just happens to be a professional travel provider.
I was hired long ago to build a closer relationship between Broadway and the travel industry. Well-versed in the world of theater, I was clueless about how the tourism business functioned. The wonderful staff at what was then known as the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau became my tutors, particularly Nancy Austin and Carolyn Flores. They pointed me in the right direction and I followed their lead, a remarkable journey that really started at my first NTA convention.
Seattle, 1991 (Maybe ’92. I’m sure there’s an “Old War Horse” out there to fact-check me.) … I’m sitting in the resource center studying brochures—yup, print—in preparation for my appointments. Jane Buck and Shirley Richter (now Hughes) interrupted my progress.
“Hello,” Jane said. “Looks like you are a first-timer. I’m Jane. This is Shirley. What’s your name?”
“I’m Bob. Nice to meet you,” I said, turning back to my brochures.
Jane continued, “Do you play golf?”
I looked up, a little confused, “I do, when I can.”
Shirley chimed in: “Us, too. Do you like to dance?”
“Sure,” I replied. “Sometimes.”
“Great. Meet us in the lobby tonight for a drink. We’re taking you to the icebreaker.”
Icebreaker, what’s that? I thought.
And meet them I did. They introduced me around the room, in the lobby, on our way to the party, at the bar, on the dance floor, in the hospitality suite, and throughout the ensuing week and, truly, in the years to follow. (We finally played a round of golf in Birmingham a few years later, with Kevin Brewer as our fourth.)
I met so many people that week in Seattle, many of whom I still know, love, and work with today. Now, that’s an icebreaker.
Research is critical, no question, but honest dialogue, collaboration, communication, understanding each other and our businesses, being there in both celebration and need … that’s what creates true connections.
What I loved about the people of the theater, I discovered in my travel friends as well: They’re compassionate, creative, and caring individuals—motivated by a joy for life—who make the most of the opportunities and experiences that life presents, valuing human connections above all.
My business goal was to deepen the relationship between Broadway and travel. That happened, but the payback has greatly exceeded the goal, benefiting my travel and show partners alike, as well as our guests and, most important, myself personally.
Now I sit amidst the unknown, experiencing the unimaginable, feeling anxious about what’s to come, and thinking about my friends and family in theater and travel. No one knows when the curtains will rise again from this extended intermission.
What I do know is that with creative collaboration, Broadway will thrive, along with travel, and what will get us there is the same as it always has been: good people who, through dialogue, will work together for mutual benefit, where we gain as much personally as we do professionally.
I look forward to seeing you soon on Broadway, and on the dance floor. And for now … that’s what keeps me hopeful.
Top photo: Bob Hofmann talks with John Stachnik at Travel Exchange ’17 in St. Louis.
Photo by Naim Hasan