Eric Peterson, President of The Air Travel Group, grew up in Menominee, a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His family never traveled—it simply wasn't in the budget. Yet, Peterson discovered his passion for travel when he visited Orlando, Florida, with BPA his senior year of high school.
"I knew immediately this is where I wanted to be," he said. "I've always felt I was a bigger-city guy."
Peterson returned to Orlando the following year, when his former high school band director asked him to help organize a trip down to the city for the 150-member marching band. He was a freshman in college at the time, pursuing a degree in business administration, but once he got to work planning the trip, he realized it was something he'd like to get into.
He was in his third year studying business administration at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, when he finally realized he needed to make the switch: Peterson now holds a degree in hospitality management from the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at University of Central Florida.
After graduating, he worked with a tour company for nine years and discovered his favorite part of the job: booking flights.
"It's kind of rare. We're a rare breed."
His years of studying business administration weren't in vain, however. In 2013, he launched The Air Travel Group, a company that books airfare for parties of 10 or more. Peterson and his team of air travel experts provide custom travel solutions for business travel, group airfare and team travel.
As his business continues to move forward, he'd like to get involved with organizations that help underprivileged youth.
"We're always looking for greater opportunities for students," he said. "Whether that's working with the SYTA Youth Foundation or other organizations, we can assist with booking flights, so students can see what our incredible world has to offer."
Peterson's favorite part of working in the travel industry is the opportunity it's given him to see the world—especially with his own kids. As satisfying as successfully starting and growing his own business was, he notes his favorite personal accomplishment is raising his family of four girls and giving them opportunities to "experience what's out there."
Eric Peterson is one of the 2017 Top 10 Next Gens nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry. Click here to read more about the Top 10 Next Gens in the January/February issue of the magazine.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.