Travel professionals breathed a sigh of relief when the National Tour Association opened registration for Travel Exchange. The annual conference is where NTA members gather to hold business appointments, develop itineraries, share strategies, and gain new industry ideas and information.
But another factor is even more important this year.
“We’ll be together—in person,” says Catherine Prather, NTA president. “Our community held strong throughout the pandemic, and we conducted business, education, and happy hours online, but this is the hospitality industry. We’re in-person people.”
Catherine Prather, NTA president
Travel Exchange is Nov. 14–17 in Cleveland, Ohio. A glance at the dates tells members something new about this year’s event: Now a four-day show, TREX ’21 has been shortened by one full day.
“Our members had asked for a shorter show, but we couldn’t find a way to fit the appointments members need with the education, panel discussions, and networking events they want,” Prather says. “Sales Mission and Best Pitch sessions were our game-changers, though.”
Those sessions, introduced at the 2019 show in Fort Worth, are ways for multiple buyers to get information from multiple sellers simultaneously. In Sales Missions, DMOs (and often, suppliers) who are from the same area share how tour operators can package multiple days in their destination. And Best Pitch gives buyers the chance to hear from overseas members how they can package travel to that country for groups or FIT clients.
Both types of sessions give buyers and sellers more connections without increasing the time that buyers spend in appointments. And this year, Sales Mission and Best Pitch will be conducted virtually, 10 days before the live show.
Appointments at NTA Travel Exchange
Even with a shorter show, Prather and the NTA team are adding more features and benefits, including the following:
- The International Tour Management Institute is holding its annual symposium in conjunction with TREX, bringing certified tour directors and guides to Cleveland. Operators seeking to hire ITMI graduates can interview candidates virtually, Oct. 25 and 27.
- Also joining NTA and ITMI under the Travel Exchange ’21 umbrella is the World Food Travel Association’s first in-person FoodTreX in North America.
- NTA’s National Parks Partners Pavilion will debut in Cleveland, connecting buyers with key players in and around NPS sites: hotels, concessionaires, DMOs, restaurants, and other suppliers.
Other events at Travel Exchange will be flat-out fun: an opening-night icebreaker at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a dance party hosted by Tourism Cares, and a gala event celebrating the 70th anniversary of NTA’s founding.
“Our industry slowed to a crawl during the pandemic, but we are sprinting ahead with an in-person conference where our members can reunite, reconnect … and rejoice!” Prather says.
For not-yet-members, NTA is bundling membership and Travel Exchange fees, and buyers who take a full book of appointments get a generous rebate to offset travel costs. Email NTA Headquarters for details.
Bob Rouse is NTA’s vice president for communication and editor of Courier.