Established in 1964, The Travel Institute is the education destination for all travel professionals. Through innovative education programs, professional certifications and customized learning solutions, The Institute fulfills its non-profit mission to promote a standard of industry knowledge and excellence.

Meet The Team

Brian Darcy

Brian Darcy

Fun Fact: Been associated with ICTA/TTI since 2001 and yet I am only the 6th most senior member out of the 12 staff members listed.

Carolyn Cuzzone

Carolyn Cuzzone
Database Administrator

Fun Fact: Loves quilting – her last quilt had 880 pieces and took almost three years to complete

Carla Smith, CTA
Director of Membership

Fun Fact: Need something done? Ask a mom with twins!

Diane Petras, CMP, CTIE
Chief Operating Officer

Fun Fact: Was a travel agent for 10 years, and wants to know who remembers red ink on their hands and why. She also wanted us to say she started her career at age 2.

Guida Botelho, CTA

Guida Botelho, CTA
Director of Training

Fun Fact: Guida was born in the Azores.

Jill Mross
Manager, Public Relations

Fun Fact: Having a meal with our staff “foodie” can be a true learning experience.

Lisa Owers, CTA
Manager, Content and Continuity

Fun Fact: She never met a craft she wouldn’t try or a free class she wouldn’t take.

Patricia J. Gagnon, CTC

Pat Gagnon, CTC
Certification Testing

Fun Fact: Has a large collection of books and memorabilia on U.S. presidents

Patty Noonan, CTC

Patty Noonan, CTC
Director of Sales

Fun Fact: Did a practice run with Olympic bobsled team in St. Moritz.

Steven Coy, CTC
Office Manager - Textbook Coordinator - IT Helper

Fun Fact: 7500 Christmas songs on his iPod and counting.

Taylor Ruecking

Taylor Ruecking
Director, Marketing & Technology

Fun Fact: Was on the American Eagle Safety Card, before being replaced by illustrations.

Vanessa Cabana

Vanessa Santo-Domingo
Testing Coordinator

Fun Fact: Vanessa is a second-generation team member with The Travel Institute.

Board of Trustees

Brian D. Robb, CTIE
Chairman

Brian Robb is founder and principal of Robb Aspect located in southeast Wisconsin. He joined The Travel Institute Board of Trustees in 2005 and was appointed vice chair in 2010. He became chairman in October 2015.

With a travel industry career spanning nearly 40 years, Robb has worked as an agency manager as well as sales manager for an airline, has operated tour companies and led in the creation of travel technology systems. This broad background has continually focused on leading efforts to grow and develop the effectiveness and success of travel agencies and their travel supplier partners.

Prior to forming Robb Aspect, he was senior vice president at the Mark Travel Corporation and Trisept Solutions, where he most recently worked to advance VAX VacationAccess, a product that he helped define, develop and launch in 1999. Robb also spent 12 years at Carlson Travel Group where he was global vice president of marketing, managing an annual budget of over $12 million dollars. Leading up to his role at Carlson, he was an airline sales manager and general manager of the travel agency, Nordic America Travel with offices in Minneapolis, Oslo, and Stockholm.

Robb has served on several industry advisory boards, including Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Gaylord Entertainment Company, Hawaii Tourism, and TravelCom. A frequent keynote speaker, Robb has addressed issues ranging from travel technology and strategy development to agent-supplier relations. He has also lectured at Cornell School of Hotel Administration where he reinforced the role of travel agents and tour operators in hotel yield management.

A native of Minnesota, Robb resides in Wisconsin with his wife Kris. They are the proud parents of two daughters and a horse. A firm believer in pursuing your passions, his interests include continuing education, the fine arts, an occasional round of golf.

Gary Pollard, CTC

Gary Pollard, CTC
Vice-Chairman

Gary M. Pollard is President of Ambassador Tours in San Francisco. Founded by his parents, Stan and Leone Pollard, in 1955, Ambassador Tours is a full-service travel agency specializing in affordable vacation travel to all parts of the world.

Gary knew at an early age that he wanted to be part of the family business. So, after a couple of years of college, he joined the business and the folks made sure he started at the bottom – in the mail room – where he coordinated the mailing of cruise and tour brochures. Not long after, Gary graduated from Echols International Travel School.

In the ensuing years, Gary held a wide variety of jobs of increasing responsibility, covering all aspects of the business and eventually taking over the daily operations of the business with his brother, Bruce Pollard, in 1995. Finally, in 2003, his parents officially turned the reins of the company over to him, appointing him President, with overall accountability for Sales, Marketing, and Operations. Now, more than 50 years after its inception, Ambassador Tours remains a leader in the travel industry, working hard to offer the best prices, best service and the best possible vacation for every travel interest.

Gary has served on advisory boards for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and currently serves on the advisory boards for Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and Club Med. Gary is also actively involved in his community, serving as Board President of the Foster City Youth Baseball Association, President of the San Mateo High School Athletic Boosters, and a Committee Member of the Foster City Park and Recreation Citizen Advisory Committee, and past President of Peninsula Temple Sholom. Gary earned his CTC in 1988 and became a life member in 1989.

Gary has sailed on more than 40 ships. He resides in Foster City with his wife, Chris, and their two sons, Bryan and Marcus.

Horst Schultze

Horst Schulze
CEO – Capella Hotel Group

From 2001 – 2002, Horst Schulze served as the vice chairman of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. Previously he served as president and chief operating officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., a position he held since 1988. Under his leadership, the Company was awarded the 1992 and 1999 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and has been continuously voted “best hotel company in the world” by convention and trade publications. In November of 1991, Mr. Schulze was recognized as “corporate hotelier of the world” by HOTELS Magazine. In 1995 he was also awarded the prestigious Ishikawa Medal for his personal contributions to the quality movement. Mr. Schulze is a recognized leader in the service world. His vision has indeed helped reshape customer service concepts in both the hospitality and the service industries. In 1999, Johnson & Wales University recognized him with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration in Hospitality Management. In January 2002, Mr. Schulze was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Hotel, Sales & Marketing Association International.

Today, Mr. Schulze serves as a director on several boards. These fine institutions include: Reliance Trust Company; Cancer Treatment Research Foundation; Cancer Treatment Centers of America and The Travel Institute. He is now the President and Chief Executive Officer of The West Paces Hotel Group, a newly formed company focused on creating and operating luxury hotels.

 

Scott Ahlsmith, CTC
Technical Strategist, Apple Leisure Group

Scott Ahlsmith, CTC, completed his term as chairman of the Board for The Travel Institute in December 2010. Scott has a travel industry career that dates to 1972. From owning his own agency to being an expert on travel technology and distribution, Ahlsmith continues to serve on the board today and brings a depth of industry knowledge that is hard to match.

Scott’s résumé points to the following stops in his travel industry tour: He was branch manager of Thomas Cook Travel; the director of sales for Cartan Tours; the director of the Electronic Edition of the Official Airline Guide; the President of Gant Travel Management; and Vice President and General Manager of TRAMS, President and CEO of Magellan Travel Group, Founder of You! The Brand and Executive Vice President Global Technology for Virtuoso.

Scott graduated from Kansas University in 1972, earning degrees in journalism, education, and computer science. He has put that journalism experience to good use, having written “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Vacation.” Scott also hosted daily radio shows for Voice of America and has appeared on The Bill O’Reilly Show. Scott is a travel professional’s advocate, ombudsman, evangelist, true believer, guinea pig, arbitrator, intermediary, moderator, consultant, educator, coach, customer and cheerleader.

Terry Berggren

Terry Berggren
Director of Client Experience, RUF Strategic Solutions

Since joining Ruf Strategic Solutions in 1997, Terry Berggren has been helping clients leverage the power and potential of their data. His consultative approach and thorough understanding of the travel and tourism industry helps marketers drive measurable results and increased ROI. As a recognized expert in tourism marketing, Terry has been featured in numerous publications including Direct Magazine, Target Marketing Magazine and ARDA Developments Magazine. Terry has also served on the International Board of Directors for the Travel & Tourism Research Association (ttra), as well as on the Marketing Board of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association (KCCVA).

Debbie Wilson

Debbie Wilson, CTA
Professor and Department Chair, Los Medanos College

As Professior and Department Chair for Travel Marketing programs, Debbie combine three of her passions: training, technology, and travel. After spending ten years in the high-tech industry, including two years as a sales trainer, she earned her certificate in travel marketing and entered the travel consulting field. In 1998 Debbie returned to the Los Medanos College travel department as an instructor and has been training travel professionals for the past several years, applying her advanced degree in distance education.

Jackie Freidman

Jackie Friedman, CTIE
President, Nexion

Jackie Friedman is the president of Nexion, a fully licensed, bonded and accredited host agency with operations in both the United States and Canada. She oversees an operation that employs 68 staff supporting more than 3,500 independent leisure and corporate travel professionals, most of whom work from home. Jackie joined the Nexion leadership team in 2004 as Vice President of Operations. In early 2007, her responsibilities increased when she was promoted to President and General Manager of the host agency with a focus on membership growth, supplier relations, marketing, business development, training, customer support, product development and fulfillment services. Under Jackie’s leadership, the Nexion membership base has more than quadrupled and annual gross sales have grown to over $390,000,000 a year.

Prior to joining the Nexion team, Jackie enjoyed a 15-year career with Sabre Travel Network, serving in a variety of account management, sales, business development and leadership positions in both Canada and the United States. Prior to joining Sabre, Jackie got her start in the travel industry working as a front-line agent and eventually a travel agency manager in her home town of Toronto, Canada. Jackie is a native of Canada, but recently became a citizen of the United States.

Laurie Bohn

Laurie Bohn
Director, Trade Sales and National Training, Royal Caribbean Cruises

Laurie Bohn is the Director of Trade Sales and National Training for Royal Caribbean International. She leads an award-winning team of more than 25 and is instrumental in executing the global cruise brand’s trade strategy in the U.S. and Canada. In her role, she oversees the Business Development Support team, National Training team, as well as manages the cruise line’s relations with trade association partners. Prior to this role, Laurie led and championed Royal Caribbean’s trade partnerships with its largest U.S. and Canadian national accounts.

Previously, Laurie served as the Director of National Account Sales for Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruise Line. Laurie brings with her broad perspective and knowledge in working with all business channels, as well as many years of experience as a field sales manager, both at Holland America Line and sister-brand, Celebrity Cruises. She started her travel industry career as a Flight Attendant for Continental Airlines.

Sheri Selkirk, CTA

Sheri Selkirk, CTA
Vice President of Hosting Programs, Brownell Travel

As a Vice President, Sheri wears many hats. She helps all of Brownell’s Independent Contractors keep their businesses running smoothly through her training, leadership and support in growing their businesses. Selkirk has been in the travel industry since 1996. Initially, she was an in-house travel and meeting planner for a retail organization, and later she worked in both corporate and group sales before moving to the operations side of the business.