The National Automatic Merchandising Associations Gratitude Tours concluded its 7-city tour last week with its final stop in Madison, Wis. The gatherings in September and October collectively drew between 39,000 and 43,000 attendees. They did more to draw public attention to our industry than any event in several decades.The Gratitude Tours were exciting. Seeing all of the machines with the newest technologies notably video touchscreens in one place was an uplifting experience.The event generated more than a lot of attention to our industry; it generated more positive media coverage than anything in our industrys history.In the past, newspapers and TV stations occasionally sent reporters to vending trade shows and reported on unusual looking machines; machines that were not always designed to enhance the customers experience. Thats history.Thanks to the Gratitude Tour and NAMA industrys growth strategy, the media has become better educated about who we are and what we do.To see a good sampling of the media coverage of the Gratitude Tour, go to: http://www.vendialogue.com/in-the-newsCNBC-TVs Power Lunch ran a story highlighting the technology on display from the Atlanta, Ga. Gratitude Tour. The report included interviews with exhibitors and noted the popularity of vending among Gen Y.The Gratitude Tour and other aspects of the industry growth strategy, such as the Vend.Love.Win Facebook contest, are small steps, but collectively, they are changing consumer perception of our industry.Now its up to each of us to do our part.Individual operators can go to http://www.healyandschulte.com/nama/ and download materials to promote the Vend.Love.Win Facebook contest.Operators can invite local media to see how they are providing state-of-the-art vending services. These are challenging times, no doubt, but NAMA, through its industry growth strategy, points out that these are exciting times as well.Its up to all of us to keep the excitement buzzing along.