Insights from the National Tour Associations Travel Exchange (Part 1), with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 360

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For this first episode in a special two-part series from the National Tour Associations Travel Exchange, I visited the National Tour Associations Travel Exchange in Shreveport, Louisiana and spoke with several experts in the travel and tourism industry. My guests shared their insights into the travel industry, looking at the trends, challenges, and whether events like NTA Travel Exchange make you a better tourism professional. The wisdom each of these leaders shared is certain to be invaluable for travel industry professionals, both experienced and brand new.

In this episode, you’ll hear from these extraordinary leaders:

Insights from The National Tour Associations Travel Exchange

The National Tour Associations Travel Exchange is an incredible event that allows experts in group travel to exchange ideas about the trends in the potential opportunities for group tour operators into 2024. It was my honor to speak to some of the extraordinary guests at the travel exchange to get their thoughts on how they view partnerships and what they would say to the future generation of tour and travel professionals.

Carylann Assante: CEO Student Youth Travel Association

Carylann describes some trends that she’s seeing in the tour and travel business right now, including shorter lead times and a preference for less crowded itineraries allowing for more time for visitors to explore the different spaces, and giving them flexibility should things change. She also highlights restaurant and attraction preferences for smaller groups, and why they’re creating groups within groups when they have large numbers.

Catherine Prather: President National Tour Association

Catherine highlights the increasing demand for meaningful travel experiences that support local communities and the environment. She notes that smaller travel group trends due to COVID are starting to level off, with some groups returning to pre-COVID sizes. Catherine emphasizes the NTA’s focus on peer-to-peer networking and collaboration, offering educational sessions and an open buyer floor to help members become better professionals in the travel industry.

Dawnielle Tehama: Executive Director Willamette Valley Visitors Association

Dawnielle describes the NTA Travel Exchange as an opportunistic event, highlighting the remarkable opportunities it presents for learning and collaboration within the travel industry. She discusses the challenges arising from the slow travel trend and its impact on rural communities, emphasizing the importance of adjusting to this new paradigm. Dawnielle emphasizes the unifying force of tourism, promoting unity and shared experiences among travelers.

Jerry Varner: Owner Making Memories Tours

Jerry emphasizes the significance of face-to-face interaction and personal relationships in the tour and travel industry, advocating for an open mind and dreaming about potential opportunities. He describes the tourism industry as not “normal,” highlighting the kind and helpful nature of professionals in the field. Jerry also highlights the spirit of inclusivity and family at NTA, providing a setting for high-quality tour operators to interact and connect.

John Sutherland: Director of Community Impact Tourism Cares

John talks about the significance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the travel industry. We dig into the power of collaboration and partnerships in addressing sustainability and creating meaningful, immersive travel experiences. John also discusses the valuable connections, education, and conversations that events like the NTA Travel Exchange provide, fostering partnerships and collaborations that allow for growth.

Juan Pablo Suarez: Travel Trade Manager Ottawa Tourism

Juan Pablo and I discuss the importance of face-to-face interactions and personal relationships in the tour and travel industry, emphasizing the critical role of partnerships and collaboration for success. I love that he advises keeping an open mind and dreaming about potential opportunities in the industry, and describes the tourism industry as unconventional, highlighting the kind and helpful nature of professionals in the field.

Julie Payne: Group Sales Consultant The Hershey Company

Julie shares the importance of networking and creating relationships in the tourism industry during events and appointments with tour operators. She highlights the significance of partnerships and collaboration, likening them to friendships with both parties working toward the common objective of driving more visitors to a destination. Julie also discusses the impact of the global pause on the tourism industry and underscores the importance of trust and reputation in the field.

Karen DiGiacomo: Tour & Travel Sales Manager Daytona Beach Area CVB

Karen and I dig into the importance of collaboration and partnerships in the tourism industry and she describes the NTA Travel Exchange as an invaluable platform for industry professionals to work together toward a common goal. Karen discusses the evolution of the tour and travel industry, particularly how smaller group sizes are becoming more prevalent due to changing travel preferences and the impact of COVID-19.

Moving Forward into 2024

In this episode, we uncover valuable insights from industry experts, from the evolving trends in group travel to the power of collaboration and partnerships. Our guests shed light on the industry’s resilience, adaptability, and share their passion for delivering unparalleled travel experiences. As the industry continues to navigate the impacts of global events, the spirit of inclusivity, innovation, and community has emerged as a driving force behind its success. We hear how the connections made at events like the NTA Travel Exchange serve as catalysts for growth, learning, and the creation of memorable experiences that unite travelers and destinations.

I am so excited to announce that my first book, Stronger Together: Building World-Changing Collaborations that Succeed, has been released! Help me celebrate this milestone and expand your knowledge about collaboration. Find out more information here:

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