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Staying Active in the Student Travel Industry

Student group tour operator Educational Tours, Inc. (ETI) has a new owner and president: Donna Adam officially stepped into leadership on August 1, 2017.

When Donna first joined the ETI team in 2005 as the accounting department supervisor, she had no idea there was an industry for student travel.

"I guess it was just the luck of the draw." 

Donna's position lent her a broad overview of each aspect of ETI's business, and she served as the general manager's go-to person whenever he needed assistance. After he left the company in 2007, former ETI owners Mike Kowatch and Patricia Dyson asked Donna to consider taking the position.

"I loved being the accountant, so I said I would do it temporarily. I kept that temporary position until I became the owner."

Over the past 10 years, Donna became more and more involved in the student travel industry. She earned her Certified Student Travel Professional from the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) and has been a Board of Directors member since August 2015. She's also spent time volunteering and mentoring at SYTA conferences.

"When students are introduced to travel at a young age," Donna said, "studies show that the love of travel stays with them."

She frequently quotes SYTA's Student and Youth Travel Digest:

"A travel experience triggers a process of accelerated personal development, contributes to better academic performance and improves social interaction between young people."

"Knowing that what you do at work can impact students in this way, how could you not love the industry?" Donna said. "What we help educators do for their students is so rewarding."

Donna first broached the idea of purchasing ETI during a conversation with Mike and Pat one morning. When the topic turned to retirement, she mentioned she wished she could purchase the company from the couple.

"Five to six years later, here we are. It's just been a progression that fell into place," she said. "Some people think my husband and I are crazy for purchasing the company at this stage in our lives, but we don't!"

Donna credits Mike and Pat for her inspiration, noting they are great mentors for she and her husband. "I just admire them, and they have stayed active past many people's retirement age. If I can do that and be like they are, I'm going for it."

Over the past year, ETI made a lot of changes to stay current in the industry—the company got a new website, became active on social media and upgraded the computer system. Now that the process is nearly complete?

"I have the most wonderful staff I'm working with. We have long-term employees who mean the world to me and our customers," Donna said. "We are going to keep being the same company that we've been since we started. Focused on doing the best job possible for our customers.

Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today. 

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