This week, the show is coming from the NTA Travel Exchange in Shreveport, LA, where more than 800 tour & travel professionals convened to do business, learn, and network. There have been several years of uncertainty and change in the travel industry, but from speaking to these experienced leaders, it looks as though there are positive times ahead. In these conversations, we dig into the trends they’re seeing in the tour & travel business, and my guests share how important collaboration is to their destination’s success.
In this episode, you’ll hear from these extraordinary leaders:
The NTA Travel Exchange is all about positive energy, partnership, and collaboration and it’s an event that gives travel experts space to explore new opportunities for their locations. I love hearing these fascinating thoughts from extraordinary leaders in the travel niche. I know you’ll enjoy their insights on why events like the NTA Travel Exchange make them better tourism professionals.
Kristy Durso of Incredible Memories Travel
Kristy highlights the significance of addressing accessibility challenges in travel, focusing on service dog laws as a critical issue. She emphasizes that collaboration, partnership, and communication are key for successful, accessible travel, and in that same vein, her word to describe the NTA Travel Exchange is “essential”.
Lisa Simon of International Inbound Travel Association
Lisa also talks about the importance of partnerships and collaboration in the travel industry for growing tourism and improving travel products for returning European visitors. She discusses examples of incorporating outdoor products and including national and state parks and their indigenous residents in travel packages. Lastly, she describes the travel industry as fun and rewarding for future professionals, emphasizing the positive energy at events like NTA Travel Exchange.
Lori Sorrentino, Travel Writer and Owner of TravelMad.com
Lori discusses the rise of multi-generational and slow travel, the heightened awareness of travel impacts, and a love for small rural destinations. We talk about the importance of understanding the diverse reasons why people travel and the significance of connecting with various businesses and groups in the industry. Lori also shares insights on the industry’s ongoing evolution, underscoring the limitless potential for growth and experiences in the tourism profession.
Michael Dillinger of National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations – USA
In my chat with Michael, we dug into the challenges of being a tour guide and the lack of recognition for their role. He and I discussed the magic of the tourism industry and recent trends in the tour and travel business, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages, and the use of technology, specifically AI, in the tourism industry. He stresses the importance of staying updated and connected with the industry and the role of events like the NTA Travel Exchange conference in achieving this.
Ron Metz of GoWay Travel
One of the things that comes up repeatedly at these events is the importance of trust and collaboration in the tourism industry, noting that successful trips involve multiple travel components and people. He describes the industry as life-changing, allowing him to meet and work with individuals worldwide and explore different countries. Ron shares personal experiences of presenting travel opportunities and finding fulfillment in helping others experience the world. He encourages potential future tourism professionals to pursue a career in the industry, highlighting the limitless potential for growth and experiences.
Shannon Larsen of Ed-Ventures
Shannon discusses current trends in the tour and travel industry, highlighting a shift towards experiential travel, smaller group bookings, and the demand for hands-on experiences, such as wine tastings and cultural interactions, as well as the desire for leisurely, immersive itineraries. She and I reflect on why attending in-person events is so valuable in terms of networking, problem-solving, and collaboration with industry peers. When I asked Shannon to describe the NTA Travel Exchange in a word, Shannon chose “friendship” to represent her strong relationships and collaborations in the industry.
Ted Bravos of International Tour Management Institute
Ted shares his journey into the travel industry and discusses the evolution of the tourism industry, mentioning the benefits of group travel in enhancing people’s overall experience of new locations. He mentions his love for the freedom and personal connections that come with the profession and highlights the importance of participating in industry events like the NTA Travel Exchange for networking and industry education.
Positive Steps into the Future
I love discussing the ever-evolving landscape of the tourism industry with the dedicated travel professionals that we have on the show. In the episode we’re exploring the significance of shared experiences in group travel, the growing popularity of slow travel, and the vital role of collaboration and partnerships in creating meaningful and accessible travel experiences. From insights into industry trends and the impact of technology to personal anecdotes of professional growth and fulfillment, our guests have shed light on the transformative nature of the tourism profession and I know you’ll enjoy hearing their wisdom.
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:
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.
John Lyotier is CEO and Co-Founder of TravelAI, an UpNext company. TravelAI is an applied AI company operating in the field of travel. Through a network of interconnected brands, the company connects high-intent travelers to the largest travel websites in the world and over 10 million properties. TravelAI’s proprietary big data marketing engine has facilitated more than $1.5B in gross booking value and 6M nights booked since 2016.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with John Lyotier all about what led him from a tech start-up into the travel space. We discuss why businesses need to prioritize personalizing their approaches and messaging to meet the needs of individual consumers. John shares why he believes in the power of collaboration in the travel industry and why by aligning objectives and revenue models, businesses can optimize efficiency and create shared success.
AI technology has been the hot topic of 2023, and the travel industry is no exception. John Lyotier shares his extensive experience and expertise and gives valuable insights into the power of AI in providing personalized experiences and tailored marketing efforts to attract individual consumers.
One of the key challenges the travel industry faces is the overwhelming amount of choices available to consumers. John emphasizes the need to move from a web of 5 to a web of 500, and eventually, a web of 5,000, to achieve true personalization and targeting. By segmenting and personalizing data, businesses can understand individual consumer personas and craft marketing messages that speak directly to their desires and preferences.
Technology plays a vital role in personalization, and John reminds us that it shouldn’t overshadow the importance of human connection and emotions. He shares why he believes in infusing technology with humanity, as it is the meshing of both of these things that truly creates lasting memories and immersive experiences.
We discuss why working together and forming partnerships is essential for achieving success in a crowded marketplace. Just as a bundle of sticks is stronger together, collective efforts and strong partnerships lead to greater outcomes.
John highlights the importance of aligning with partners’ objectives to allow for shared success and mutual growth. Whether it’s vacation cottages, discount travel, or unique niche audiences, like pickleball players, the future of travel lies in customization, collaboration, and the creation of unforgettable memories.