LEXINGTON, Ky. — The National Tour Association is adding a new facet — and new faces — to its annual conference. Starting in 2020, NTA’s Travel Exchange will include graduates of the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), who are trained and certified as tour directors and guides and will interview with NTA-member companies seeking to fill job openings.
The addition of this talent pool addresses a longstanding need for tour operators, according to Pam Inman, CTP, NTA president. “One thing I always hear at NTA Owners Network meetings from the people who run tour companies is that they have a hard time finding qualified tour directors,” she said. “Beginning with TREX ’20 in Reno Tahoe, we’ll bring them together face to face, and tour operators can meet and interview scores of qualified candidates.”
For decades, NTA and ITMI have each conducted annual gatherings; next year the two organizations will integrate the ITMI Symposium into NTA’s Travel Exchange. “Symposium connects job-seeking ITMI-certified tour directors and guides with employers that are looking to hire qualified tour and travel professionals,” said Ted Bravos, CEO and founder of ITMI. “And by combining our events, both organizations can expand their audience and exposure.”
One tour operator is very familiar with both organizations. “As a 2002 ITMI graduate and a tour operator-member of NTA, I am excited about this partnership,” said Taunya Wolfe Finn, CTP, owner of Wolfe Adventures & Tours. “Tour directors are some of the most important people on our team, and being able to interview, meet and hire them at Travel Exchange — where I’m already going to develop tour product — makes it easy.”
Travel Exchange is a multiday conference that provides NTA members a series of one-on-one business appointments and other structured information exchanges, plus seminars and casual networking events. “NTA has long comprised three key elements of tour creation: operators, suppliers, and destinations,” Inman said.” Now we’ll have a fourth key, with ITMI graduates representing tour direction and management.”
ITMI works with some 700 tour companies around the world, many of which do not currently attend Travel Exchange. The integration of shows means that the NTA event will have more tour operators — in terms of both the number of tour companies and the number of people from a company. The addition of job interview sessions will not affect the current appointment schedule.
ITMI was the first school in the U.S. to train tour directors and guides, and the organization has been a member of NTA for 43 years. “Our partnership with NTA will provide great opportunities for our graduates,” Bravos said. “And because many of them also have backgrounds in marketing, sales, or product development, ITMI alumni will be significant finds for tour companies, DMOs, and tour suppliers.”
NTA leaders will attend the upcoming ITMI Symposium in Branson, Missouri, Nov. 1–5, to help celebrate the announcement and to answer questions about NTA and Travel Exchange. Similarly, ITMI leaders will attend Travel Exchange ’19 in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 8–12.
Inman is impressed with ITMI’s process and its people. “I have attended ITMI training sessions, and my three main takeaways are that the candidates are well-vetted, the instruction is high-caliber and rigorous, and these talented professionals will be a great fit with the NTA community,” she said.