MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — NTA leaders debuted new initiatives and continued to build on to existing programs at Travel Exchange, the organization’s annual convention, which took place November 4-8 in Milwaukee.
Some of the new initiatives are directly related to the Travel Exchange event.
“We had over 1,000 people, trending the same as the last two events,” said NTA president Pam Inman. “We’re looking at Travel Exchange in the future to help make the business more successful for our attendees.”
At the fore of the new programs was BizNet: The Opening Connection. Taking the place of the convention’s opening session, which traditionally features a keynote speaker, the BizNet session featured a series of roundtable discussions among the tour operators, tour suppliers and destination representatives in attendance.
“You meet people you never think you’d work with,” explained Paul Larsen, president of Ed-Ventures and incoming chair of NTA’s board of directors. “Then you get some ideas you didn’t expect.”
The idea for this roundtable session came from Minding Your Business, a consulting organization that NTA has been working with over the past 12 months to improve member value and modernize event programming.
Other ideas implemented at Travel Exchange were Corporate Concierge, a service that allows national and global hospitality brands to more easily list properties and engage with members, and the China Preferred Partner Program, which allows destinations and tour suppliers to join alongside 200 tour operators that specialize in serving the inbound tourism market from China. NTA is the only organization approved by the China National Tour Association to recommend American tour companies and suppliers to Chinese travelers.
At the conference, NTA also announced a new loyalty program for attendees and sponsors.
“You get points for coming to Travel Exchange, for being a sponsor and for participating in the CTP [continuing education] program,” Inman said. “Those points will give you a discount on memberships and event registrations.”
Travel Exchange also marked the official debut of Engage, an online community platform the association had been developing and testing since August.
“It’s the most exciting thing we’ve launched here,” Larsen said. “It’s an online community for tour operators and industry to connect and have discussions. There’s a fun element to it, and millennials are the most active with it.”
The association has seen growth in its networks of tour company owners and destination representatives, who often meet in person or online throughout the year to discuss topics of interest. Larsen hopes Engage will further help NTA members build their relationships and cooperative efforts beyond annual events.
“Our owner-operator network and DMO [destination marketing organization] networks are our real strength, and those people are sharing ideas,” he said. “We want to connect all year, not just once a year. When we support each other, we all move forward, so my vision is to see all of us working together.”