FORT WORTH, Texas — NTA bid farewell to outgoing president Pam Inman during its annual Travel Exchange event December 8-12.
Inman, who served four and a half years as president, will be succeeded by Catherine Prather, executive vice president and a 25-year veteran of the association. Inman’s retirement was effective December 31, and Prather took the reins the first of this year.
Much of Inman’s tenure was focused on experimentation and efforts to bring new members to the association, as well as new concepts to Travel Exchange, its signature annual conference.
Two of the new concepts rolled out at the 2019 event. One was a session called Sales Missions that featured groups of destination representatives from 42 states and provinces teaming up to present highlights of their areas to tour operators. The other new session, Best Pitch, featured three-minute destination and product pitches from industry attendees.
Inman also announced what could be the most significant innovation of her time — a partnership with the International Tour Management Institute that will integrate ITMI’s annual symposium into NTA’s Travel Exchange beginning this year.
“ITMI trains tour guides and directors, and we’re going to bring their symposium to Reno/Tahoe next year,” Inman said. “They usually have about 350 people. They do educational sessions and one-on-one job interviews, and they’re very much like NTA in terms of being a family.”
The agreement will integrate ITMI’s symposium into the next three editions of Travel Exchange. Prather said NTA worked carefully to ensure that the two organizations would be compatible.
“We really feel like it’s a culture fit,” she said. “We’re bringing tour operators and [destination management organizations] qualified potential employees. Our missions are really in sync. We’re allowing them to focus on their mission because our tour operators need them to be well trained.”
Another final achievement for Inman was working with other tourism partners to successfully lobby the National Park Service (NPS). The administration had announced procedure changes that would be both onerous and expensive for tour operators visiting national parks. The new rules were set to go into effect early this year, but NPS announced last fall that it would reevaluate the policy change.
“The first time I met with NPS about the issue was in October of 2015,” Inman said. “We’ve had so many meetings with them and formed a coalition so we could all communicate with them at the same time. And we got our members to reach out to their congresspeople. What our tour operators can explain to them about how they are being affected means a lot more than anything I could ever say.”
Prather, who also served as interim president in 2014 before Inman came on board, worked closely with Inman over the past year to ensure a smooth handoff.
“I’m optimistic because NTA is in such a good place, and it’s an honor to be able to work in what I consider the best association in this industry,” she said.