Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group, launches the RTO Summit West with an overview of current international market conditions and its outlook for the near-term future, explaining that the tour and travel industry is popular among consumers because, “We operate in the toy department of life.”
At least one person at every table worked directly on to a laptop. Here, that person is Annie Jirapatnaku, tourism supervisor for the Philadelphia CVB; she is joined by Jeanne Peterson, executive director of sales and marketing, Southern California Gray Line.
Greeting one another near the registration desk are Roselle Masse, director of contracting, West, TeamAmerica; and Tere Stamoulis, international marketing manager, California Historic Route 66 Association.
Chatting just outside the conference room during the morning coffee break are Aniseh Dalju, co-founder of Onward, a new receptive tour operator; and David Falsetti, senior sales manager, Big Bus New York.
Gathering after their discussion, Mobile Marketing: Why We Chat?, are: Adam Roseman, CEO and co-founder, FansTang; Evan Saunders, founder, Attract China; and Brian Chuan, director of travel trade development, South Coast Plaza.
Strategizing during the afternoon coffee break are Hard Rock International’s Tara Hippensteel, director, tour and travel, North America; and Michael Casillas, sales and marketing manager, tour and travel.
Part of the contingent from South Dakota at the Summit: Michelle Thomson (left), president, Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association; and Julie Jones-Whitcher, director of tourism, Rapid City CVB.
Jesus Garcia, international sales and marketing manager, Atlanta CVB; and Ana M. Gonzalez, director of international sales and marketing, Experience Kissimmee, listening to the discussion of Bridging the Silos between Digital Marketing and International Sales.
Red Gillen, owner of Portland, Oregon-based Slabtown Language Works, translates as he follows the program.
Just finished wrapping up the afternoon presentations are: Keri Hansen, director, tourism and development, Macy’s; Bill Karz, vice president, digital marketing, Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board; and Teresa O’Neill, vice president of global sales, Travel Oregon.
Laszlo Horvath, CEO, ActiveMedia, walks the first of two groups (who visited his table during the “Genius Bar” session that closed out the day’s program) through a brief “how-to” use Google information to analyze a destination’s online performance.
From the Department of Conference Services at the University of California in Berkeley, California, we have (left-to-right): Kelley Smithy, conference sales coordinator; Jeffrey Church, conference sales coordinator; and Nikole Halaska, conference sales coordinator.
Doug Bourgeois, director, Louisiana Byways Collection, Louisiana Office of Tourism, listens as Marita Ross, director of business development, America4You, makes a point; next to her is Sylvina Nolte, assistant, contracting department, Amercia4You.
Checking his messages between business appointments is Brian Jemison, director of sales and marketing OUE Skyspace Los Angeles.
Convening their own caucus at the Summit are (left-to-right): Shawn Parker, executive director, Sheridan Travel & Tourism; Julie Jones-Whitcher, director of tourism, Rapid City CVB; and Amanda Allcock, director of sales, Crazy Horse Memorial.
Negotiating is still intense as the business appointment sessions near an end; pictured is Jerry DiPietro, business acquisitions consultant for Balir Hotels.
At the Lassen Tours table are (left-to-right): Richard Yu, tour operation; Jerome Ma, operation supervisor; and Jacky Huang, assistant operation manager.
Getting together upon first seeing one another at the Summit are familiar tour and travel industry faces Shoshana Puccia (left), senior marketing manager at Macerich; and Sheelagh Wylie, head of trade sales, Merlin Entertainments.
Taking her message-check break outside in the sun is Lisa Bruening, senior tourism sales manager, Visit Denver.
Pausing between appointments just long enough to say hello to us is Don Meldrum, vice president, Americabound Tours.
Waiting for his next appointment to show up is Ryan Fockler, product manager, Contiki Holidays.
Representing China Travel Service (USA) are: Cathy Yang (left), operation manager, inbound tours; and Sherry Chai, general manager, inbound business.
At the Summit for New Sun International Travel is Christine Leader, marketing director.
At the New World Travel table are (left-to-right): Denise Pyeatt, product coordinator; Melanie Franz, product coordinator; and Rochelle Ross, supervisor, FIT reservations.
Peio Cuevas (right), vice president, operations and development, SeeUSATours, is joined Leonardo Hoffman, the company’s Los Angeles area manager.
Representing TPI America during the Summit’s business appointment sessions is Izaira Alvarado, sales and operations department.
Looking up from checking her messages is Cindy Mei, product purchasing manager, Galaxy Tour (U.S.A.)
Very busy at their booth during the Summit’s business appointments sessions were (left): Hitomi “Hanna” Baba, tour coordinator purchasing, Kintetsu International Express (U.S.A.); and Hideki Kubo, senior tour coordinator, Kintetsu International Express (U.S.A.).
So busy with visitors that she has no business cards left by the time the final business appointment session arrives is Chloe Maleski, Los Angeles product manager for Tourico Holidays.
Brian Chuan, director of travel trade development, South Coast Plaza and Alicia Chuan, marketing director for the Los Angeles office of East/West Marketing Corp., take a break outside the business appointments session meeting hall.
It’s time for the closing reception. Recounting the day’s events is (right) Liz Gilbert, director of national accounts and travel industry sales, Entertainment Cruises, with Gisel Vidals, head of national trade sales and head of sales and marketing, New York City, Big Bus Tours.
Networking at the closing reception are (left-to-right): Bill Kwong, president, Gala Holidays & Tour; Roger Workman, vice president of hotel marketing and sales, Horne Management Group; and Becky Johnson, global specialist, Utah Office of Tourism, Film & Global Branding.
Luca Corbella, product manager, AmericanTours International, joins Miriam Blumenthal, International & Group Marketing Manager, Chicago’s Western Suburbs, at the reception.
Socializing at the reception are (left-to-right): Karen Fluharty, partner, Helzberg Diamonds Outlets; Sharon Rudometkin, assistant buyer, American Ring Travel; and Brenda Bailes, contract manager, Miki Travel Ltd.
From AmeriCan Adventures are: Ian Rozner (left), sales consultant; and Greg Mazzola, business development manager.
Awaiting the awarding of the awards drawing at the reception are (left-toright): Jo Chen, tour coordinator, Lion Tours USA; Deidre DeVico, director of sales, Tourism Richmond; Lisa Bruening, senior tourism sales manager, Visit Denver; and Apple Cai, tour coordinator, Lion Tours USA.
Friends and colleagues at the reception: Nancy Jepsen (left), director, global sales-tour and travel, Wyndham Hotel Group; and Liz Gilbert, director, travel industry & national accounts, Entertainment Cruises.
No doubt discussing the impact of the Canadian market on New York State’s tour and travel industry are (left-to-right): Elizabeth Davis, director of sales, Niagara USA Tourism & Convention Corporation; Sally Berry, group sales manager, Corning Museum of Glass; and Harry Wade, tourism marketing manager, Duty Free Americas.
Enjoying the reception are Amanda Jiang, tour and travel trade sales manager, Asia & Pacific, Hornblower Niagara Cruises; and Praytino Hadinata, tour planning manager, Tour America.
Mara Sultan (left), convention and international sales manager, Discover Lancaster, presents an envelope with vouchers for a number of travel experiences and products from the Lancaster, Pa. area to the winner of the prize, awarded through a raffle at the RTO Summit’s closing reception, to Jennifer Chen, controller at Alhambra,California-based Colorful Tours Inc.
The RTO Summit West is the occasion for an annual meeting of NAJ with Agent Kai, the Japanese Tour Operators Association of California. At this year’s meeting, Ko Ueno, the organization’s executive director, is in the center. Jake Steinman, founder and CEO of the NAJ Group, is in front row, third from right.
Betsy Cooper, NAJ’s tour operator community manager/marketing, with the most popular NAJ staff person at the RTO Summit West this year—her daughter, Mimi.