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Newbie Notes

Bites of basic info for first-timers (and need-reminders)

What is TREX?

TREX is shorthand for Travel Exchange … because who’s got time for four whole syllables?! Travel Exchange is NTA’s signature event, an annual show that features business appointments, education, social events, and lots of networking. NTA has been holding this event since the 1950s, and it was commonly called “NTA Convention” or simply “NTA.” Travel Exchange better describes a show with many facets, and it quickly was nicknamed TREX. You’ll see other terms that grew out of TREX, like TREXpress, for example, and TREXies, our awards program for sponsor booths. From now to November, you’ll be hearing and reading about TREX more and more—including every issue of TREXpress, emailed prior to the show, and TREXpress Daily, printed on-site.

Who will be at Travel Exchange?

We’re under a welcoming umbrella that covers NTA, the International Tour Management Institute’s Symposium, and NTA’s National Parks Partners pavilion, along with Tourism Cares leaders. That means you’ll see NTA buyers and sellers, of course, along with certified tour directors and guides, plus experts in packaged travel of all types, sustainable travel, and national parks.

What kind of delegate are you, anyway?

If you attend Travel Exchange as a buyer, you can register one of three ways:

  1. Full-book buyer, with free registration and rebate eligibility
  2. Direct request buyer, sitting out the first round of matches in the appointment system, then making at least 30 direct requests when that system opens.
  3. Non-appointment-taking buyer, with no prescheduled or direct request appointments, but able to share appointments with a full- or direct request buyer from your company

If you’re attending Travel Exchange as a seller—either a supplier, a DMO, or an operator who’s selling to other operators—you have only one big registration decision: How soon will you sign up? You’ll get a significant discount if you sign up during the early-bird phase. Another advantage: When the appointment system creates matches, it uses date of registration as a tie-breaker. Whatever kind of delegate you are, you can sign up as soon as registration opens in June by going to NTAtravelexchange.com and clicking the green “TREX REG” button in the top-right corner.

What’s a dine-around, exactly?

On the Travel Exchange schedule of events, you’ll see that some nights are designated “dine-arounds.” You can think of it as a free night to have dinner at a local restaurant, but it’s also an opportunity to make more connections. The term has roots in a time of big budgets, when sellers from a city or state would take a number of buyers to dinner. This practice still takes place, but on a smaller scale. If you’re not hosting or attending an evening gathering, you can organize a dinner of your own with friends, colleagues, and current and prospective clients. The staff at the host city booth on the TREX Floor can give recommendations and help with reservations.

What’s a Sales Mission?

Introduced at Travel Exchange ’19 in Fort Worth, Sales Missions allow groups of DMOs from a state, province, or region—along with invited suppliers— to advise tour operators and tour directors on multi-day tours in their area: what’s new, what’s coming, and how to package it all. We run several missions concurrently in five sessions, which means a tour operator can choose up to five Sales Missions to attend. Operators sign up for Sales Missions during the Direct Request period of appointment-making. DMOs attending TREX and wishing to gain extra connections with buyers by participating in a Sales Mission (at no extra cost) will be asked to let NTA know that they want to be part of a mission.

And Best Pitch is …?

… An overseas DMO or receptive operator’s quick talk about their country: what to see and do, when to visit, and how to package it. When introduced in Fort Worth in 2019, this session was loaded with buyers who gathered a ton of information from a series of quick presentations. Presenters will be contacted in prior to Travel Exchange; national tourism offices get automatic invitation. Buyers need only indicate they’re attending by signing up during the Direct Request period of appointment-making.

ITMI Symposium at Travel Exchange

Through a partnership between ITMI and NTA, merging Symposium with Travel Exchange, professionals from both organizations attend the same event and benefit from the collaboration. Tour directors and guides make valuable contacts and gather terrific information during the four days of Travel Exchange’s education sessions, meals, evening events, and other activities. And tour directors can add on interviews with tour operators who are seeking to hire. Operators can attend to conduct interviews, and they also can bring a second company rep to conduct appointments with NTA sellers—DMOs and tour suppliers. ITMI registrants can also attend NTA’s Sales Missions and Best Pitch session, highlighting North American and international destinations.

Who sponsors … and why?

Sponsors are MVMs during Travel Exchange. (That’s Most Valuable Members if you’re keeping score.) By supporting NTA with additional resources, sponsors provide a wealth of experiences and opportunities to all attendees that we wouldn’t otherwise have. A sponsorship can cover big things, such as a luncheon or an evening event, and sponsors also bring you refreshments, speakers and seminars, and bonus items and activities on the TREX Floor. And while sponsors are most valuable (and quite generous), they’re also smart. They know that by bringing memorable events and items to you, they’re also achieving some serious branding goals. Some sponsorships always snapped up (name badges, luncheons, buyer gifts, etc.), and others are created fresh when a member says, “Heyyyy, what if we gave everybody ___ … or what if we fly ___ in to entertain the TREX crowd?” Leading all of those conversations is NTA’s Beth Engel. You can talk to her about sponsoring an old favorite or a new idea, and she can price a sponsorship in as little as 10 seconds. (It’s a gift, absolutely.) Give Beth a call (859.264.6560) or send her an email.

As a seller, what do I bring?

Sellers walk to appointments with buyers, and you can travel light. You can hand out profile sheets and business cards only during your appointments. You can share images on a tablet, but remember you’re there to establish personal connections, so after introducing yourself and describing your place, be prepared to listen and provide information and ideas. You’ll be talking about your favorite place! If you’re a sponsor, don’t forget to bring materials, tchotchkes, and displays for your booth on the TREX Floor.

What do I do during down time?

Sellers’ appointments are concentrated on specific days, but don’t consider the time outside of your appointment sessions as “down time.” Every event on the Travel Exchange schedule is a time for you to expand your network and your knowledge. Seminars, luncheons, volunteering, roundtables, receptions, and evening events are ripe with opportunities to swap business cards and ideas. On the TREX Floor, you can also pick up impromptu appointments with seated buyers who agree to meet.

What are the COVID protocols?

NTA is 100 percent committed to providing a healthy and productive environment at Travel Exchange, and, guided by the CDC and the local health department, we carefully assess conditions and determine if any protocols are necessary.

How do I learn more?

Two ways: Watch this space and watch your inbox! NTA will update the Travel Exchange website as events, education, and sign-up steps are solidified. And after registration opens, members will receive period issues of TREXpress, a conference newsletter with announcements, instructions, and reminders that keep the NTA community on track for the big event, Nov. 12–15 in Shreveport!

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