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    NATSO Conference a Success

    Travel-plaza operators learn new strategies at association's convention last week.

    NASHVILLE, Tenn.
    Thousands of truckstop and travel-center owners were in Nashville last week to share information and ideas at the industry's leading trade show.

    The National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) held its annual conference Feb. 13-15 at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center here.

    The truckstop and travel-center industry is made up of more than 4,500 locations that pump three quarters of the retail diesel sold in the United States and has faced many of the same pressures on fuel and tobacco margins weathered by convenience store operators during the past few years.

    As a result, the show buzz focused on ways to develop other profit centers. Seminars on strategies for improving in-store sales, improving repair-shop marketing, cross-promotions and partnering strategies were filled with operators eager for new ideas to spur growth in an increasingly difficult marketplace.

    In order to cultivate loyalty and draw higher rings from their core customer base of professional truckers, 39 percent of the nation's truckstops have installed Internet kiosks. A growing number of operators, seizing an opportunity to attract traveling families, have also begun to offer a wider range of food-court options and facilities for RVs, a high-growth area for the industry, NATSO officials said.

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