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NTA AMBASSADORS

Is there a question you’d love to ask one of your fellow NTA members about what to expect at Travel Exchange? How to work the floor? What to ask during your appointments? What to pack? Which events to attend? Now, you can! NTA ambassadors are your go-to NTA members for TREX19. They’ve been there; they’ve done that, and they’re here to help. Simply click on their names to ask them a question.

If you have any questions about things such as the appointment scheduling system, your NTAonline login and password, your registration, etc., please e-mail NTA HQ.

JIM COGGIN, VIRGINIA BEACH CVB

During his 28 years in the tourism industry, Jim has earned a reputation as a go-to guy, probably a good thing considering he works for a destination marketing organization. In additional to all the industry knowledge he’s accumulated, Jim has been to NTA’s Travel Exchange more than a dozen times and has served on the association’s leadership team. Seems like just the type of person you’d want to reach out to for peer-to-peer advice regarding the convention, right?

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Squirrel. You guessed it…It tasted just like chicken.

SCOTT HARTCORN, SHILO INNS SUITES HOTELS

After more than 25 years of working the floor at Travel Exchange, Scott channels his inner Boy Scout when asked to share advice with newcomers. “Be sure to come prepared. Whether you’re a seller or a buyer, know in advance what you want to accomplish. Come to the exchange floor with a specific reason why you are meeting with each company on your list. Also, what you do before and after convention is actually as important, and perhaps more important, than what you do at convention.”

What fad from back in the day do you wish would come back?
Bring back Space Invaders, Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Pac Man. They were the only computer games I ever got good at.

MELODY JOHNSON, FALCON’S CREST

When Melody was growing up, she wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps and become a school teacher, because she always loved learning. While she wound up in the travel industry instead, she sees learning as an essential part of running her own tour company. And one of the main lessons she learned over the years is the value of building quality relationships with DMO representatives and tour suppliers. And where does she meet these partners? That’d be Travel Exchange.

If you could get up on stage with any musical group, who would it be?
The Glenn Miller orchestra

MICHELLE PINO, NORTHEAST UNLIMITED TOURS

Michelle’s answer to your NTA-related question might just be the solution you’re looking for. How do we know? Because not only is she an NTA Ambassador, she is also the chair of NTA’s Member Solutions Advisory Group. This means she’s well-versed in the many ways that your NTA membership can work for you. As the owner of a tour operator company that’s been in business for 12 years, she follows the industry even more closely than she follows her beloved New England Patriots.

What is one movie you will ALWAYS stop to watch?
“Under the Tuscan Sun”

JOHN SHAFFER, LURAY CAVERNS

Among this year’s top-flight group of Travel Exchange Ambassadors, John trumps them all in terms of experience. He first attended the event during Ronald Reagan’s second term as U.S. president—that was 1984–88 for those of you needing a quick primer on presidential history—and has been building relationships with members ever since. His knowledge of the event and passion for the industry may only be surpassed by his love for the area he calls home, Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Lunch at my high school cafeteria.

SUZANNE SLAVITTER, CTP, SPORTS EMPIRE & AUTHENTIC CALIFORNIA VACATIONS

If you’ve ever met Suzanne, shy might not be the first (or 101st) word you’d use to describe her. And, she encourages all Travel Exchange first-timers to follow her lead. “Don’t be shy,” she says. “There is a lot going on, and every event is a networking opportunity.” Suzanne knows what she’s talking about, as evidenced by the fact that NTA presented her with its Bob Everidge Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 convention.

If you could get up on stage with any musical group, who would it be?
Chicago.

CHRISTIAN UTPATEL, TERRA LU TRAVEL & CONSULT GMBH

The Forth Worth convention will mark Christian’s eighth TREX, making him a babe in the woods compared to the rest of the Ambassadors. But, he’s a quick study and is one of NTA’s international members who has found great success by attending. In addition to owning a tour company, Christian is, appropriately, a pastor. Besides checking with him to get Travel Exchange pointers, be sure to ask him about Oberammergau 2020.

What fad from back in the day do you wish would come back?
Taking pictures with a camera, not with a cell phone, which means to wait until it’s worth taking a picture.

MICHAEL WEINBERG, CTP, HILTONS OF CHICAGO

Hard to go wrong in sending your questions to the man who was named the 2016 NTA Volunteer of the Year. Michael earned that award for his excellent, extra-mile service as a Travel Exchange volunteer over the years, which you’ll come to appreciate once you meet him. His top recommendations for newcomers?  “Say HI to everyone and smile at them, because you never know which ‘hi’ is going to lead to your next big connection.” He also considers the “Ask the Operator” educational sessions a must.

If you could get up on stage with any musical group, who would it be?
Miami Sound Machine. All of their early songs were a party on stage!

CLAYTON WHITEHEAD, CTP, SPORTS LEISURE VACATIONS

Speaking of A-list Travel Exchange volunteers, Clayton has been a mainstay at NTA’s signature event for the better part of three decades. The informative Travel Exchange 101 seminars he leads, along with his tours of the convention floor, are musts for first-timers, and he consistently earns kudos from newbies on the post-event surveys. While he is much better live, he also has a wellspring of wisdom he can draw from to help you as you are preparing for Fort Worth.

What was your dream job when you were a kid?
Cruise director, like Julie on “The Love Boat.” I wrote Princess Cruises in high school to find out how to make it happen, and they answered!

PAM WILLIAMS, HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

Hailing from the “Rocket City”, Pam may just be the person to help your NTA membership soar. Having been with her city’s DMO for 13 years, Pam can help you navigate the multiple ways to promote your destination to the hundreds of tour operators who are part of the NTA family. Not only has Pam connected with tour operators through Travel Exchange, her DMO has also been a consistent advertiser and sponsor of NTA events, so she has seen the benefit of NTA membership from many angles.

One travel destination you haven’t yet visited, but desperately want to:
Norway

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