Monday, December 13, 2010

The 32nd Annual United States Tour Operators Association meeting (USTOA)

People to People Ambassador Programs is a proud member of the United States Tour Operators Association, (USTOA). USTOA's motto is "Integrity in Tourism." Accordingly, the association has established some of the highest standards in the industry for their members to follow. Among the USTOA's goals is to foster a high level of professionalism within the tour operator industry, a vision shared by all of us here at People to People Ambassador Programs.

We have actively supported the USTOA for severak years, and this last year we provided leadership on the board. Last week, the USTOA came together this year in New Orleans for its annual conference, and many of us from the People to People Ambassador Programs were in attendance. Here are a few highlights:

The Annual Meeting
As a student educational travel provider that sends its delegates to over 40 countries and all 7 continents, we have to keep our pulse on the state of travel around the world to provide the best experiences for our delegations. As such, we actively track political and safety issues. In years past People to People Ambassador Programs has traveled delegations to Cuba, but it looks like a dead issue for this year. USTOA is working to simplify entry into Brazil. Currently, the process is lengthy and hampers tourism. I believe the group is working towards the point when you can get a visa upon arrival—just like Egypt does.

We all know that the global economy has been troubled. So, the membership committee also surprised everyone when they reported tour operators are reporting a 15% increase in business in the coming year. This news seems to indicate the economy my truly be on the rebound with people ready to travel again in large numbers.

We also learned that USTOA membership is up. Given USTOA's rigorous membership requirements, it's a good sign that standards are being more widely adopted.

The Board Meeting
During the annual board meeting which followed the annual meeting, we were all proud to hear that our own Willy Sennott, Director of Marketing Research for People to People Ambassador Programs, was elected to a two year Board of Director term. That's Willy pictured at left in the blue shirt.

The Board meeting was also the end of an era and the start of a new one. This past year the USTOA President, Bob Whitley, passed away on May 13, 2010. Bob touched so many lives and had so much love for the tourism industry. At the Opening Luncheon on December 10, the USTOA paid tribute to Bob for his 32 years of service.

After the committee update the members were introduced to their new President of the USTOA, Terry Dale (pictured at left). I personally had an opportunity to speak with Terry and I think he will be a wonderful addition and a strong leader of this important organization. His new position takes effect in late January, 2011. You can learn more about Terry's role at USTOA in this press release and this interview.

The next USTOA Annual conference & Marketplace will be held in December 2011. You can count on us being there to share what we experience to help all travel related organizations enhance their health and safety practices, and to gain from our peers any new process that ensures the safety of every People to People Ambassador Program delegate.

With that, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life.


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