by Hunter R. Slaton | April 01, 2008

Steve RicherLast fall, Steve Richer, right, retired as executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau to join the National Tour Association. M&C recently spoke with Richer about his new job.

M&C: What is your role within the NTA?

Richer: I have a brand-new position called public affairs advocate, which started last November. The position has five elements: government relations, industry relations, media relations, international membership development and financial analysis/Wall Street relations.

M&C: Why does the NTA want a director of travel and tourism in the White House?

Richer: We’re looking for a position within the White House that is focused on the travel and tourism portion of the national economy. We have a lot of tourism economy issues that need presidential attention, such as air traffic control, delays in passports and visas, and the federal transportation system. There are just so many different issues that a strong voice in commerce isn’t enough. We believe somebody who speaks to and for the president will get departments within the administration moving to help all portions of our tourism economy.

M&C: What would the NTA like to do to improve air travel in the United States?

Richer: Over the centuries, there’s been a progression that as the economy grows, transportation grows. You can go back to the stagecoach, railroads and highways and see how things went; in today’s world, it’s air travel. We’d like to see more accessibility by air, globally as well as nationally. We’ll work with the next Congress on how to facilitate that.

M&C:How will the NTA’s success help planners?

Richer: The stronger we can make the travel industry, the better it’s going to be for meeting planners. We are planners, too, and we want to see a strong travel industry that is appreciated and supported as we work with Wall Street and the media to show the role this element plays in the national economy. If we succeed, it can’t help but make for better services. Also, if we get more international people coming to the U.S., it just creates more demand -- and the more demand there is, the better facilities there will be that serve both leisure and the meeting side. We’re all in this together.

M&C: How do you like your new job so far?

Richer: It’s really challenging, but also fun. I like being able to work on national and international issues and projects.

M&C: How would you sum up your Mississippi Gulf Coast experience?

Richer: I have to thank all the people who helped out, from churches, civic clubs and more, as a result of which you see how the Mississippi Gulf Coast is coming along. We’re all human beings first, and I’ve learned a phenomenal lesson in the goodness of people.