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The 14 Most Influential Women in Group Travel

Groups Today is pleased to present The 14 Most Influential Women in Group Travel. Group travel comprises myriad businesses, and these women represent many facets of the industry.

DebraAsberryDebra Asberry | Women Traveling Together | President and Founder
Debra ensures clients choose the right trip through detailed itineraries and in-depth communication, and helps them prepare for their experience, even suggesting physical regimens to prepare for the particular level of activity of the trip. Success lies in the details: thorough site visits, helpful travel partners and professional organizations, and relationships with people who offer eyewitness destination information.

carylann-assanteCarylann Assante | Student & Youth Travel Association and SYTA Youth Foundation | Executive Director
SYTA supports industry professionals who provide socially, culturally and educationally enriching travel experiences for students and youth worldwide. By providing professional opportunities to SYTA members, Carylann helps facilitate the networking that is so important to success in the industry. With experience in member relations, development, and fundraising, Carylann is able to address many facets of SYTA’s “big picture.”

Brewer Lynn 10146Lynn Brewer | American Bus Association | Senior Vice President of Meetings, Education and Member Services
Lynn says that group travel is on the rise, and the ability to innovate is responsible for that success. What used to be thought of as travel for a more mature demographic has become an on-demand travel method for younger groups, providing transportation into major cities, with activities like Broadway shows, and “behind the scenes” special additions like cast parties and acting workshops. Customer service is still key, but technology is providing access to new demographic groups.

LisaCurtin1Lisa Curtin | Brightspark Travel | Vice President of Operations
A parent and former teacher, Lisa understands what clients seek when it comes to student travel: experience, communication, and safety—a major “value added” provided by her company. In spite of a sluggish economy, student travel is popular, and has almost become an expectation. Lisa sees student travel as an opportunity to make students more globally aware, contributing to a more peaceful world.

SaraHamlinSara Hamlin | Birmingham (Alabama) Convention & Visitors Bureau | Vice President of Tourism
Through online resources and a mobile app, Birmingham provides tour operators with convenient options, while still offering personalized customer service. Sara notes that technology is helpful, yet relationships with customers and colleagues in the industry are the key to success. In addition to cultivating those personal relationships, Sara says that involvement in professional organizations on the local, state and national level helps provide networking opportunities.

StephanieLee2Stephanie Lee | Group Sales Box Office | Co-owner and President
Her father began this business, and Stephanie grew up learning every aspect of the business, from stuffing envelopes, to roller skating around town, dropping off order forms and picking up tickets. She says that carrying on her father’s legacy, and continuing relationships he established has been extremely rewarding. Stephanie says that, “listening, learning, and engaging at every opportunity” is her approach to identifying new audiences, anticipating the needs of clients, and making sure that audiences are matched with the best performances for their interests and sensibilities. “For any business and certainly all career paths, quality relationships can be the foundation for great achievements and success.”

LauraMandalaLaura Mandala | Mandala Research, LLC | Managing Director
Laura’s company conducts studies for Fortune 500 companies, and her evaluations of emerging markets help destinations and travel companies make the right decisions to attract the right travelers. She’s also the founder of Women in Travel & Tourism International, which provides networking, mentoring, lead-sharing, and philanthropic opportunities for women in the industry.

CamillaMorrisCamilla Morris | Oneonta Bus Lines Eastern Travel | Director of Sales and Office Manager
Being strong, assertive, and independent has played into Cam’s success, as has the opportunity to be mentored by the motorcoach company’s owner. Clients recognize the value of using Cam’s packaged tours. “We have people telling us, ‘It’s simpler. I get on, and there’s not another worry.’”

StephanieParr-BrooksStephanie Parr-Brooks | Globus Family of Brands | Director of Contracting
Challenges vary by market and region, with changing demographics, expectations, and external factors constants. In an age of an overwhelming number of choices, standing out on top is a major challenge. Attention to detail is important, whether in research, recognizing niche markets, or understanding the industry’s scope. “It helps to have a Type A personality,” Stephanie jokes. Terrific mentors and colleagues are also contributors to her success.

AmyPerezAmy Perez | Global Tracks | Senior Program Manager
Knowing clients’ needs and matching them with the destination that best fits them in the face of emerging markets is one of Amy’s biggest challenges. Working with an expert staff makes it easier, but developing client relationships is crucial. Seeing students’ excitement is among her job’s greatest rewards, and she loves sharing these experiences. “The way that travelling can open people’s eyes to a whole new outlook on life will never get old,” she says.

AmySpainAmy Spain | Snohomish County Tourism Bureau | Executive Director  
Effective communication and building relationships are cornerstones of Amy’s success. Many in the industry embody hospitality, and many on the path ahead have helped her along. “I have found people gravitate to this industry because they embody the true essence of ‘hospitality,’” she says. “Many have gone the path before me and reached out to help me along.” Among her advice to newcomers: “Get engaged! Don’t be afraid to step up into leadership and strengthen your skills. Be brave. Always be true to yourself and honest with others.”

MaryStachnick2Mary Stachnik | Mayflower Tours | Co-founder
While finding highly effective staff is a challenge for the escorted tour market, Mary and her husband made it part of their business model to provide extensive training and mentoring that lead to a quality product. Mary says that one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is the mentoring aspect, seeing her staff achieve from the efforts she and John have invested in them. She attributes her success to tenacity—identifying a problem, envisioning the solution, and tracing the steps that lead to that solution.

AnbrittAnbritt Stengele | Sports Traveler | President
Anbritt initially intended to establish an online portal for clients to purchase sports-oriented tours, yet discovered a need for someone to plan those tours, too. By providing value-added elements clients couldn’t easily arrange on their own, Sports Traveler is able provide a richer experience for sports enthusiasts. For those who are just starting out in the travel industry, Anbritt says, “You can’t be afraid of working hard. You may have to have two or three jobs,” she said. “Be willing to put in the time, and let things play out.” Working toward goals, noticing opportunities along the way, and willingness to make a big commitment are all factors that contributed to her success.

PhyllisStoller2Phyllis Stoller | Women’s Travel Group | Founder
Phyllis began planning tours in 1992, catering to women with money, education, and time to appreciate travel, but without companions sharing the interest. She takes pride in planning trips to exotic destinations, and accommodating discriminating tastes. She provides clients with reading lists, including iconic books of the region, particularly by female authors, and arranges for speakers to address her groups about cultural topics. Phyllis often reaches out to local experts, in order to provide a richer cultural experience for her clients.

Article written by Jennifer Reynolds, staff writer of Groups Today


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