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NTA Addresses 10-Year Vision at Travel Exchange

Travel industry professionals from across the United States, as well as dozens of foreign countries, gathered January 31-February 4 in Atlanta for Travel Exchange, the annual convention held by NTA.

“We have about 1,500 people in attendance,” NTA president Pam Inman told journalists in a press conference at the event, adding that 322 are tour operators.

Among those in attendance, Inman reported that 55 were new tour operators and 300 were first-time delegates. She said that international delegates represented 33 countries.

The international attendance is a continuing trend for the association, and one that dovetails with the vision Inman has laid out in her two years as the association’s president.

“The 10-year vision for NTA is to the global packaged travel association,” she said. “To do that, we need to grow membership, retain members and grow in niche markets.”

Among those niche markets is the Hispanic community. NTA added two events to the Travel Exchange docket that specifically courted Hispanic travel professionals. Encuentro was a workshop aimed at educating attendees on Hispanic travel opportunities, and Fiesta was a social gathering for Hispanics in travel.

NTA is also deeply invested in helping facilitate inbound group travel from China. Inman said more than 200 NTA tour operators offer tours to Chinese travelers. And a seminar by Temple University researcher Robert Li highlighted researching findings on perceptions and experiences of Chinese travelers to the United States.

Inman also said NTA is part of an organization called Engage Cuba, which is working on expanding the opportunities for Americans to visit the restricted island nation. Though American leisure travel to Cuba was restricted for much of the past 50 years, provisions opened by the Obama administration in 2011 have allowed preapproved “people to people” trips that have proven extremely popular. Pending legislation may impact those provisions, though, as might the results of the 2016 general election.

“Cuba is one of the top issues with our members right now,” she said. “There are two strong pieces of legislation in Congress right now that would affect travel to Cuba, and we’re following both.”

In spite of the various international initiatives, though, Inman said domestic travel has not taken a backseat at NTA.

“We will continue to shore up the North American market as we grow,” she said. “The North American market will always be our base.”

NTA will hold two Travel Exchange events in 2017 in order to switch back from a first-quarter convention to fourth-quarter dates, which were popular with members for many years. The first will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, February 26-March 2. The second edition will be in San Antonio, December 14-18.

Inman said that NTA will offer discounted pricing to organizations that attend both conventions in 2017. 

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.