At Travel Exchange, members of the National Tour Association come from North America and overseas to meet, mingle, and make matches under one roof. NTA’s signature event, TREX is made for buyers of all types and specialties who seek tour suppliers, DMOs, and tour directors and guides to build partnerships, collaborations, and creative itineraries.
Let’s cover the basics:
Q: What is TREX?
A: TREX is shorthand for Travel Exchange … because who’s got time for four whole syllables?! Travel Exchange is an annual show that features business appointments, education, social events, and lots of networking. NTA has been holding this event since the 1950s, and it was commonly called “NTA Convention” or simply “NTA.” Travel Exchange better describes a show with many facets, and it quickly was nicknamed TREX. You’ll see other terms that grew out of TREX, like TREXpress Daily, our on-site publication, for example, and TREXies, our awards program for sponsor booths.
Q: Who will be at Travel Exchange?
A: We’ll be under a welcoming umbrella that covers NTA, the International Tour Management Institute’s Symposium, the World Food Travel Association’s FoodTreX North America, and NTA’s National Parks Partners pavilion, along with Tourism Cares leaders. That means you’ll see NTA buyers and sellers, of course, along with certified tour directors and guides, plus experts in culinary tourism, sustainable travel, and national parks. And this year, we’re expanding the NTA Guest Program to also include DMOs and suppliers who want to attend TREX and explore NTA membership. It’s a good thing we’ll have name badges!
Q: What kind of delegate could you be, anyway?
A: If you join NTA and plan to come to Reno as a buyer, you can register one of three ways:
- Full-book buyer, with free registration and rebate eligibility
- Direct request buyer, sitting out the first round of matches in the appointment system, then making at least 30 direct requests when that system opens, Oct. 25.
- Non-appointment-taking buyer, with no prescheduled or direct request appointments, but able to share appointments with a full- or direct request buyer from your company.
If you’re attending Travel Exchange as a seller—either a supplier, a DMO, or an operator who’s selling to other operators—you have only one big registration decision: How soon will you sign up? Remember that when the appointment system creates matches, it uses date of registration as a tie-breaker.
Q: What are the key dates for this year’s TREX?
A: Don’t read another word about key dates until you’ve locked in the ones for Travel Exchange on your phone (and wherever else you track important events): Nov. 13–16 in Reno, Nevada. To take part in sightseeing and in all of Sunday’s activities on the TREX Floor, you’ll likely arrive on Saturday, the 12th. Here are other dates to know:
Sept. 23 – The last day for buyers to be eligible for the rebate by registering for TREX and by updating your online profile. (What’s a rebate? Buyers who take a full book of appointments and meet other requirements are partially reimbursed for travel expenses.)
Sept. 27–Oct. 14 – The appointment system is open. During this time, you can request appointments with other delegates. You can add and alter your requests throughout that time, and you should definitely check in to see new registrants. When the system closes on Oct. 14, the computerized matchmaking begins.
Oct. 25 – Customized appointment schedules are posted. At the same time, the Direct Request phase of scheduling begins. For 10 days, you can send requests for appointments directly to the people you want to meet with.
Nov. 4 – Direct Request scheduling closes. Your next opportunity to pick up appointments will be on the TREX Floor in Reno, when you can approach unoccupied buyers at their booth and ask for a minute of their time.
And now for some FAQs:
Q: What does my registration fee cover?
A: If you’re budgeting for costs beyond air and lodging, keep in mind you’ll get lunch Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday—plus Sunday lunch if you’re on a sightseeing tour. There will be breakfast options on the TREX Floor Monday through Wednesday, and there’s also the Buyer Breakfast and the FTA Breakfast if you’re a buyer or an FTA-er (Faith Travel Association member). You can count on snacking during the day on the TREX Floor at sponsor food booths and during receptions, and the parties on Sunday and Wednesday are hosted events that include food that, while not plated, is substantial enough to serve as your evening meal. On dine-around nights, you get to explore Reno’s restaurants on your own or with friends. Take a look at the schedule blocks, and these details will make better sense.
Q: What’s a dine-around, exactly?
A: You can think of it as a free night to have dinner at a local restaurant, but it’s also an opportunity to make more connections. The term has roots in a time of big budgets, when sellers from a city or state would take a number of buyers to dinner. This practice still takes place, but on a smaller scale. If you’re not hosting or attending an evening gathering, you can organize a dinner of your own with friends, colleagues, and current and prospective clients. The staff at the host city booth on the TREX Floor can give recommendations and help with reservations.
Q: What’s a Sales Mission?
A: Introduced at Travel Exchange ’19 in Fort Worth—and in person again this fall—Sales Missions allow groups of DMOs from a state, province, or region—along with invited suppliers—to advise tour operators and tour directors on multi-day tours in their area: what’s new, what’s coming, and how to package it all. In Reno, Sales Missions are set for Monday morning (Nov. 14); we’ll have five sessions, each with concurrent 15-minute presentations. Here’s what members had to say about the event after those first in-person Sales Missions in 2019:
- “The state and provincial Sales Missions were, for many tour operators, a good way to round up our knowledge of an area and give us connections we may not have time for in our one-on-one appointments. — Christen Eliason, The Group Tour Company
- “I got ideas from the Sales Missions that I didn’t pick up on in one-on-one DMO appointments.” —Mark Hoffmann, CTP, Sports Leisure Vacations
- “I loved the Sales Mission portion of TREX! Presenting with our neighbors has spurred us to put our heads together and come up with regional itineraries.” —Judy Hector, City of Sierra Vista (Arizona)
Operators will sign up for Sales Missions during the Direct Request period of appointment-making, Oct. 25 through Nov. 4.
Q: And Best Pitch is …?
A: … An overseas DMO or receptive operator’s quick talk about their country: what to see and do, when to visit, and how to package it. Best Pitch is part of an event-filled Sunday afternoon (Nov. 13) at 2 p.m. on the TREX Floor. When introduced in Fort Worth in 2019, this session was loaded with buyers who gathered a ton of information from a series of quick presentations. Here’s what members said about the first Best Pitch—the only one that’s been held in person until this year:
- “This was one of my favorite changes. It was nice to see everyone shine on stage while telling about all the great things our international community offers.” —Shannon Larsen, Ed-Ventures
- “Best Pitch was a brilliant exercise. Many U.S. members greeted me later on and made positive remarks about South Africa.” —Deon Kitching, Embrace South Africa Tours
- “Those who did not make appointments with overseas members got to hear what they had to say and perhaps weigh a trip outside the country.” —Cynthia Billette, CTP, Columbia Crossroads Tours
Presenters will be contacted in prior to Travel Exchange; national tourism offices get automatic invitation. Buyers need only indicate they’re attending by signing up during the Direct Request period of appointment-making, Oct. 25 through Nov. 4.
Q: As a seller, what do I bring?
A: Sellers walk to buyers for appointments, and you can travel light. You can hand out profile sheets and business cards only during your appointments. You can share images on a tablet, but remember you’re there to establish personal connections, so after introducing yourself and describing your place, be prepared to listen and provide information and ideas. You’ll be talking about your favorite place! If you’re a sponsor, don’t forget to bring materials, tchotchkes, and displays for your booth on the TREX Floor.
Q: What do I do during down time?
A: Sellers’ appointments are concentrated on two days: Monday and Tuesday for DMOs and Tuesday and Wednesday for suppliers. But hey, don’t consider the time outside of your appointment sessions as “down time.” Every event on the Travel Exchange schedule is a time for you to expand your network and your knowledge. Seminars, luncheons, volunteering, roundtables, receptions, and evening events are ripe with opportunities to swap business cards and ideas. On the TREX Floor, you can also pick up impromptu appointments with seated buyers who agree to meet.
Q: What are the COVID protocols?
A: NTA is 100 percent committed to providing a healthy and productive environment at Travel Exchange, but we need to be closer to the start of the event before we set any COVID-19 protocols. We will carefully assess conditions, and any requirements or recommendations for our November gathering will be guided by the CDC and the Washoe County Health District. In the weeks before Travel Exchange, we will let members know about protocols—if there are any—in the timeliest manner possible.
Q: I’m registered … what now?
A: It’s funny you ask. TREXpress was invented years ago because we realized that, while we were pumping out weekly updates to members who had not yet registered for Travel Exchange, those who had registered weren’t hearing much. So watch for TREXpress newsletters every month or so, and be sure to read your Tuesday newsletter every week. Also—and this is so important in light of changes that organizations made during and after the pandemic—be sure to update your online profile. That’s how other members learn about you before they get a chance to meet you in person. When you’ve logged in to NTAonline.com, go to the upper-right corner and click on the “Welcome (you)” to view your profile. Check it for contact info and scope of services or offerings. And would it kill you to add a photo of yourself? It would not. Whenever you need assistance or advice, reach out to us at email@example.com or 859.264.6540, and Jen or Todd will take care of you.
Q: Who sponsors … and why?
A: Sponsors are MVMs during Travel Exchange. (That’s Most Valuable Members if you’re keeping score.) By supporting NTA with additional resources, sponsors provide a wealth of experiences and opportunities to all attendees that we wouldn’t otherwise have. A sponsorship can cover big things, such as a luncheon or an evening event, and sponsors also bring you refreshments, speakers and seminars, and bonus items and activities on the TREX Floor. And while sponsors are most valuable (and quite generous), they’re also smart. They know that by bringing memorable events and items to you, they’re also achieving some serious branding goals. Some sponsorships are always snapped up (name badges, luncheons, buyer gifts, etc.), and others are created fresh when a member says, “Heyyyy, what if we gave everybody ___ … or what if we fly ___ in to entertain the TREX crowd?” Leading all of those conversations is NTA’s Beth Engel. You can talk to her about sponsoring an old favorite or a new idea, and she can price a sponsorship in as little as 10 seconds. (It’s a gift, absolutely.) Give Beth a call (859.264.6560) or send her an email. And take a look at who’s already made that call and secured a sponsorship at Travel Exchange ’22!
Q: ITMI Symposium at Travel Exchange
A: Through a partnership between ITMI and NTA—now in our second year of merging Symposium with Travel Exchange—professionals from both organizations attend the same event and benefit from the collaboration. Tour directors and guides make valuable contacts and gather terrific information during the four days of Travel Exchange’s education sessions, meals, evening events, and other activities. And tour directors can add on interviews with tour operators who are seeking to hire. Operators can attend to conduct interviews, and they also can bring a second company rep to conduct appointments with NTA sellers—DMOs and tour suppliers. ITMI registrants can also attend NTA’s Sales Missions and Best Pitch session, highlighting North American and international destinations. For more information on pricing and options for Symposium ’22 at Travel Exchange, follow this link. And when you decide to register, use the pink box! Take a look at the Travel Exchange website for more details, and if you have questions, contact us at NTA HQ. You can also find info on joining NTA here.