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They’re talking TREX (Sponsored)

Tour operators are looking ahead to travel-friendlier times in 2022, and to help with planning, they’re also looking forward to Travel Exchange, the National Tour Association’s in-person conference Nov. 14–17 in Cleveland.

“There’s a positive urgency among NTA operators,” said NTA President Catherine Prather. “More than ever before, they’re eager to meet in November with suppliers and DMOs to retool existing itineraries and to create new ones.”

Prather gained this assessment through a number of channels: Buyer Network forums conducted by NTA, discussions during NTA’s tour operator retreat in May, and a survey of buyers registered for the association’s November event, nicknamed TREX. Asked on that survey what they would tell sellers about attending TREX, buyers provided these statements:

  • “It’s vital to reconnect on a personal level with industry colleagues.”
  • “Face-to-face is always better.”
  • “I can’t use your services if I don’t know you are available. TREX is the one place I can meet up with you!”
  • “It’s very important to get an understanding of where a supplier or DMO stands after 2020.”
  • “Relationships are where it all begins. People buy people, and your presence will bring a return.”

Asked to express their primary goal for attending Travel Exchange ’21, tour operators often included the word “new.”

“They’re saying they want new ideas and updated information about hotels, restaurants, attractions, and theaters,” Prather said. “And they like that we’ll be in-person. Operators rely on their partners to take good care of operators’ clients, so for many of them, a face-to-face meeting with suppliers and DMOs is vital.”

Not all members are able to travel yet, and for them, NTA is providing a virtual experience that includes one-on-one appointments, education sessions, and livestreamed meal events.

The entire show was conducted virtually last year, and two popular elements will be conducted online again this year: Sales Missions and Best Pitch. In these sessions, one or several sellers pitch to a group of buyers. Both events will take place on Nov. 4.

A third web conferencing session, part of NTA’s collaboration with the International Tour Management Institution, is set for Oct. 25 and 27, when tour operators will interview graduates of ITMI programs: tour directors and guides.

Joining NTA members gather in Cleveland will be other professionals whose associations—ITMI as well as the World Food Travel Association—are conducting meetings and specialized education sessions alongside Travel Exchange seminars, roundtables, and business appointments. And delegates of all three associations will mingle at luncheons and evening events and on the Exchange Floor.

“We’ve built a better event, and we’re conducting it in four in-person days instead of five,” Prather said. “NTA members will spend less time out of the office, but they’ll make new connections and reunite with colleagues they’ve partnered with through the years. It’ll be face-to-face plus a lot of fun.”

And that’s why NTA tour operators—and suppliers, and DMOs, and other professionals—are talking TREX.

Get more information at For not-yet-members, NTA is bundling membership and Travel Exchange fees. Email NTA Headquarters for details.

About the Author

Bob Rouse is NTA’s vice president for communication and editor of Courier.