Empowered leaders expected to further enable non-profit’s record growth and mission

The Travel Institute has expanded its leadership structure in response to record growth in recent years and in order to manage growth ongoing. Guida Botelho, CTIE, has been promoted to senior director of education, while Taylor Ruecking has been promoted to senior director of marketing and technology. With shared responsibility now for day-to-day operations, Botelho and Ruecking continue reporting to Diane Petras, CTIE, president of The Travel Institute, who pivots now to focus more on the non-profit leader’s long-term strategic direction and alignment with board resources.

Diane Petras, CTIE, president of The Travel Institute

Guida Botelho, CTIE, Senior Director of Education

Taylor Ruecking, Senior Director of Marketing and Technology

“This is great news for current and future students as these three proven leaders recalibrate their roles to further strengthen The Travel Institute’s ability to serve our industry’s educational needs,” enthused Gary Pollard, CTC, chairman of the board for The Travel Institute, a board member since 2009, and owner of California-based Ambassador Tours. “We are fortunate to further tap their collective energy and expertise and benefit from their continued momentum. With this move, we’ve truly cemented The Travel Institute’s ability to continue leading our industry’s educational standards,” Pollard continued.

Tapping into the team’s bench strength, Petras looks forward to leading while collaborating at a new level. “We have been in a period of growth for some time now with steady, strong demand for agent training, exciting new partnerships, and no indicator of slowing down—our industry is truly back!” she reflected. “I’m thrilled to be able to lift up Guida and Taylor as co-leaders to ensure we maximize our potential while remaining agile and responsive in delivering quality education for our industry.”

While Botelho continues to oversee curriculum development as well as some key industry relationships, she now also takes the lead on sales and pricing as well as other key functions and team members. Botelho first joined The Travel Institute in 1999, leaving in 2007 to oversee in-house training for Atlas Travel. A former teaching assistant at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, she holds a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. Rejoining The Travel institute in 2015, Botelho is credited with leading efforts to ensure updated course content ongoing, bringing new niche courses to market, partnering with industry leaders to enable additional agent scholarships and, most recently, “white label” efforts to deliver The Travel Institute’s content via in-house training programs.

According to Botelho, the industry’s biggest challenge is also its biggest opportunity. “So much new talent joining the industry sounds great, but these newcomers do not start ready to serve travelers. The challenge is making sure all agents have access to quality education at the level they need. Our programs are truly aligned with industry needs, our content is strong, and we have a best-in-class online learning environment. If you haven’t taken a look at The Travel Institute lately, now is the time,” Botelho encouraged. 

Meanwhile Ruecking, responsible for The Travel Institute’s back-office technology, the ecommerce website and marketing efforts since 2014, now aims to drive operational success related to technology, technology partners, and the e-learning environment, along with managing features, benefits and speed to market for any new content and products. Ruecking’s industry roots date back to working on ARC reports as a teenager. He also has experience as an educational video producer, an assistant editor for entertainment films, and a creative services producer/director for a local market TV station’s newscast. During his tenure with The Travel Institute, Ruecking is credited with migrating all proprietary course content online for The Travel Institute, implementing an interactive learning management system, streamlining disparate content platforms, launching digital credentials for certified travel agents, and broadening e-commerce capabilities on the organization’s website.

“Technology is constantly evolving and so must we,” Ruecking suggested. “A key goal for us now is to best manage expansion of our ‘white label’ work with organizations utilizing our content on our platform or by integrating with theirs. We understand it’s critical we meet our clients and students where they’re at. Technology is the great enabler for us to deliver our best content and broaden our reach while also continually improving the student experience to support their learning,” he shared. 

For her part, Petras continues to guide both Botelho and Ruecking while also shifting her focus to the long-term growth strategy, as well as industry partnerships more broadly, and financial investments to ensure long-term stability. “Our entire team believes in our mission—to make quality education accessible to all travel professionals at all stages of their career,” she explained. “We’re raising the level of professionalism for ourselves and ongoing for our industry—agent by agent and organization by organization. It’s what we do really well and we intend to only get even better at it.”

Learn more at The Travel Institute.


About The Travel Institute

A collaborative industry effort created in 1964, The Travel Institute has continuously evolved to maintain its role as the global leader in travel industry education and certification while staying true to its mission: dedicated solely to advancing the professionalism of both agents and industry leaders in support of individual and industry success. A non-profit, independent organization, The Travel Institute also works with leaders throughout the industry to create and deliver relevant, meaningful and rigorous coursework. Using exclusive proctored, closed-book testing to ensure its graduates earn credentials that demonstrate the highest standards of expertise and service, The Travel Institute has certified more than 27,000 Certified Travel Associate (CTA®), Certified Travel Counselor (CTC®), and Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE®) graduates and also administers the Travel Agent Proficiency, or TAP®, exam to confirm students new to the industry demonstrate a mastery of travel industry basics. A trusted partner to industry suppliers and educational institutions, The Travel Institute has trained hundreds of thousands more through additional courses, webinars, and in its online Premium Access content. Throughout North America, many successful agents and high-profile leaders credit their success to coursework from The Travel Institute. Learn more at The Travel Institute.

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Throughout July, travel agents and other professionals can qualify to receive a 50-percent savings thanks to the generous scholarships from The Travel Institute Fund.

The Travel Institute, Inc. (TTI) is an educational organization that was incorporated on November 12, 1964 as a Washington, D.C. nonprofit corporation.  TTI is organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes, developing, and providing educational programs and materials relating to domestic and international travel for the general public, educational institutions and travel professionals.