Written By: Anna Pettus and Doug Rentz, NTA (National Tour Association
There’s good reason why innovation is one of the National Tour Association’s core values. Our organization, which was founded in 1951 when a group of tour company owners banded together to fight legislation that hindered their ability to do business across state lines, is driven to evolve and adjust to meet the needs of a now global membership base.
NTA has grown into the leading voice for travel professionals who serve customers traveling to, from and within North America. Beginning as an organization of domestic tour operators, we now represent travel agents, destination marketing organizations and suppliers of all kinds—from cruise lines and railroads to hotels and restaurants—in over 40 countries.
This has created a more diverse membership, allowing for connections to develop that greatly expand the travel experience through customized itineraries and specialty markets.
“We have many reasons for belonging to NTA but two really stand out,” said tourism trailblazer John Stachnik, CTP, owner of Mayflower Tours and an NTA member since 1979. “First it gives us credibility as an entrenched member of our industry; and second, it allows us the ability to network across a broad spectrum of industry partners.”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go
Sure, NTA’s been around for 65 years, but refusing to stay stagnant, the association has adapted with travelers’ demands for authentic experiences and cultural immersion. And that’s what’s great about NTA. We encompass so many places and faces, that there’s always a new market or destination to tap into. NTA provides the people, the product and the markets. Our members make it happen.
And, yes, NTA family members do meet one another. Our industry is built on relationships, and our members shake hands, break bread, talk shop and earn each other’s trust by getting together each year at Travel Exchange, our annual convention, and at Contact, our buyer retreat. After all, NTA is about people coming together to network and form partnerships. We specialize in sharing fresh ideas, opening new markets and linking valuable business partners.
“NTA has benefitted our company by allowing us to keep our product fresh, relevant and appealing,” said Lorna Hundt of Great Canadian Holidays, an NTA member since 1986. “The opportunities to learn about new tour components and to be exposed to a multitude of new ideas—both in terms of our product and to our business operation—have been vast.”
It’s not about what NTA is, but who.
In 2002, a growing call from tour operators for expanded business opportunities in the international marketplace initiated the opening of NTA membership to organizations outside North America. Switzerland Tourism was the first to join, as destinations, attractions and receptive operators were welcomed to the NTA family outside the continent.
NTA’s membership now encompasses approximately 500 destinations, 700 tour companies and 1,100 tour suppliers, with 93% located in the United States and Canada. Our members represent tour product in every U.S. state, each of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories, and over 40 countries worldwide.
72% of NTA tour operators package travel within North America.
35% package travel into North America from abroad.
44% package travel outbound from North America to the world.
Our tour operators move close to 15 million travelers a year and do over $10.5 billion in sales volume annually. If you’re selling any component of travel, these are the folks you want to know.
Calling All Travel Agents
Though our association expanded to create travel business around the world, our horizons continue to broaden. Recognizing the growing number of our operators who work with travel agents to sell their packages, NTA opened its doors to these vacation-planning pros in 2015. And, considering 66% of NTA’s tour companies offer commissions, it was a perfect fit.
This new Travel Planner category of membership means more business for our members. But what does it mean for travel agents who join NTA? First and foremost, it means the ability to sell NTA tour operator product. There’s quite literally a world of opportunity for travel agents at NTA. We provide the latest research on 12 of the hottest markets, including cruises, adventure, student and faith. Access to these markets allows travel agents to expand their offerings and diversify their portfolio.
Travel agents can easily access our qualified tour companies through the NTA Online search engine. Available 24/7, it makes it simple to search a specific company, destination or market, and pull up a list of member matches that can be downloaded. And it’s a two-way street; members are searching for them too. NTA membership really is an active and robust community.
“The No. 1 member benefit of NTA has to be all the great professional and personal connections we’ve made over the past decade,” said Taunya Wolfe Finn, CTP, of Wolfe Adventures & Tours, an NTA member since 2005. “The knowledge and trust between everyone is amazing.”
Together. We go further.
In 2016 we gave NTA a facelift. What was born from our conversations with our members, which included the board of directors and leadership teams, was a fresh, dynamic brand highlighted by a new tagline that defines our culture.
“Together. We go further.” is NTA’s motto, but these four words are much more than a slogan. They define what we stand for, the promise we make to you and a commitment to our core beliefs. NTA is a community for sharing ideas, opening new markets and finding partners who deliver the wow factor your customers expect.
And where does that all happen? At Travel Exchange. The NTA family gathers at Travel Exchange for meetings with experienced, reliable professionals, top-tier education and networking day and night. Now with the addition of travel planners attending to meet with tour operators, destinations and suppliers, it adds another component to how product is bought and sold on the show floor.
Travel agents play a key role at convention. During the Destination Pavilion, they visit DMOs in prescheduled meetings to learn about their areas and local suppliers. This increased familiarity helps travel agents sell tour packages—created by operators—to those destinations, and subsequently, can work with tour operators to include hot destinations in demand on new itineraries.
During the Supplier Exchange, travel agents visit tour operators in prescheduled meetings to gain information about—and access to—operators’ tours and packages they can sell as retail agents. Tour suppliers and DMOs both are encouraged to bring a list of operators with whom they work to share with travel agents on-site.
“NTA membership has provided the appropriate atmosphere to brainstorm new ways of doing things and fresh additions to trips, which has led to successful business development,” said Rachel Ranck of WorldStrides an NTA member since 1985.
If there’s one word to describe NTA over the past 65 years it’s innovation. NTA originated the first-ever computerized appointment show, where prescheduled meetings were created for both buyers and sellers; and the largest caucus in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives was formed through the hard work of NTA officers and members, which was followed by a similar caucus in the U. S. Senate. And there was the National Tour Foundation, which became today’s Tourism Cares, NTA’s official philanthropy dedicated to preserving key tourism sites.
Today’s NTA is a welcoming community with a passion for helping travel professionals—like you—build business, expand markets, find new ideas and solutions, and most importantly, develop relationships with one another.
Our association, like your organization, is always evolving. We do so as our industry adapts to a rapidly changing world and when altering customer demographics and desires fuel innovative thinking and redefine what’s possible. But throughout all the change, there’s one constant: our core values of collaboration, professionalism and innovation. Help us make NTA into something greater than it’s ever been. Remember, together, we go further.
The National Tour Association is based in Lexington, Ky. Reach Anna Pettus at firstname.lastname@example.org and Doug Rentz at email@example.com. Learn more at NTAonline.com.
The Market Specialists
Are you engaged in a market that’s gaining momentum? While some NTA members package and serve a variety of tour types, others are specialists. For every market, there’s an NTA member available to partner with you.
Faith Travel Association NTA members have access to an exclusive FTA community and benefits focused on faith-travel programs and services.
China Inbound Program By 2019, China is projected to be the third-largest U.S. inbound market with some 4.9 million visitors. And NTA has over 200 registered tour operators to serve these travelers.
Hispanic Travel Market NTA’s Hispanic Market Advisory Group assists with a strategic agenda that focuses on the latest travel trends, research and business opportunities in this burgeoning segment.
NTA compiles Travel Market Guides so our members can stay current on top travel types. When you’re ready to tackle a new market, let NTA be your jump-start on the homework in these segments:
- Adventure & Active
- Arts, Culture & Entertainment
- Cruises & Sightseeing Boat Tours
- China Travel
- Family & Multi-generational
- U.S. Hispanics
- Luxury & Affluent
- Student & Youth