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 Travel Institute fulfills its non-profit mission to promote a standard of industry knowledge and excellence.

Brian Darcy

Brian Darcy
CFO

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.

Carla Smith, CTA
Director of Membership

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

Carolyn Cuzzone

Carolyn Cuzzone
Database Administrator

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

Diane Petras, CTIE

Diane Petras, CTIE
President

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, CTIE
Director of Education

Fun Fact: Guida was born in the Azores.

Lisa Owers, CTIE
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.

Shannon Coughlin
COMMUNICATIONS/MEDIA RELATIONS

Fun Fact: As the 10th of 11 children, the size of her family was actually not uncommon in her neighborhood growing up.

Suzanne Connor
Database Administrator

Fun Fact: Suzanne loves being outdoors with her family!

Taylor Ruecking
Director, Marketing & Technology

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

Ulmer S. Coy, III, CTC
Office Manager

The best part of having a passport … is using it.

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 - Chair
Founder and Principal of Robb Aspect

Brian Robb, CTIE, 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 - Vice-Chair
President of Ambassador Tours

Gary M. Pollard, CTC, 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. He has sailed on more than 40 ships. 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. He earned his CTC in 1988 and became a life member in 1989.

 

He resides in Foster City with his wife, Chris, and their two sons, Bryan and Marcus.

 

Scott Ahlsmith, CTC - Past Chair

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.

 

Rick Baron, CTC
Managing Director, Worldwide Accounts for Tauck, Inc.

Rick Baron, CTC, Managing Director, Worldwide Accounts for Tauck, Inc. in Wilton, CT is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in Marketing and Sales Management. Rick has been with Tauck for 40 years and is responsible for worldwide strategic partnerships.

 

Rick has had extensive travel industry experience starting his travel career as a Tour Director and then trainer, having worked in New England, Eastern Canada, and Hawaii. Since joining Tauck’s sales force in 1989 as Director of Sales Development, Rick has hired, trained, and managed the majority of Tauck’s sales staff, developed numerous sales seminars and travel presentations, a series of sales and marketing symposiums, and has written Tauck’s sales training manuals for business development managers.

 

Rick and his wife Linda have a 30-year-old son Jason, who is also in the industry working for SAS as National Accounts Manager, and a 25-year-old son Randy who just graduated from University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business with an MBA in Sustainability. As a hobby, Rick is a certified Level 3 Alpine Ski Instructor, teaching skiing and coaching most winter weekends at Hunter Mountain, NY and has been involved in fundraising for STRIDE Adaptive Sports skiing to raise money to support skiers with disabilities and has served as a keynote speaker for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International.

 

Terry Berggren

Terry Berggren - Secretary
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).

 

Laurie Bohn

Laurie Bohn
Associate Vice President, National Accounts, Royal Caribbean Cruises

Laurie Bohn is the Associate Vice President, National Accounts 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.

 

Drew Daly

Drew Daly, CTIE
General Manager, Network Engagement & Performance, World Travel Holdings

Drew Daly, CTIE, is a long-time member of the World Travel Holdings’ family. He started his career 23 years ago as a travel agent and is currently the General Manager of Network Engagement & Performance of home-based travel agency franchise Dream Vacations. His charismatic personality makes him perfect for this role, where he oversees all agent-facing functions including Recruitment Sales, Training, Support Services, Engagement and Business Development. Drew’s teams provide ongoing award-winning training programs, create networking opportunities throughout the year and engage with the most successful travel agents in the industry to become part of our network. As a leader in the travel industry, Drew sits on several boards and is currently the Chairman of CLIA’s Strategic Travel Agent Review Board (Cruise Lines International Association) and on the Board of Directors for PATH-the Professional Association of Travel Hosts. Drew is a regular contributor offering travel advice and tips on NBC and FOX affiliates, and is a contributor in travel trade publications as an industry expert.

 

Jackie Freidman

Jackie Friedman, CTIE
President, Nexion

Jackie Friedman, CTIE, 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, 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.

 

Evan McElligott, CTA
President, Longer Vacations

After successfully completing an advanced diploma in Travel and Tourism in Dublin, Ireland, Evan McElligott, CTA, began his career in the Tourism industry. The first ten years was in the aviation side of the business and he quickly took on leadership roles in Ticketing, Check-in Supervisor, and eventually worked his way up to Airline management.

 

His passion for the industry fueled his curiosity for the world and after exploring all the options available to him in the airline industry, he decided it was time to explore the world for the next few years. His travels took him from Europe all the way to Asia, and then to Australia and New Zealand. In 2004 he settled in the United States where he set up his travel agency, Longer Vacations.

 

Longer Vacations is a local travel business specializing in planning trips to faraway places and with an emphasis on developing markets, all of which he personally visited and has spent time in. Evan still operates as a home based agent and agency. As the business grew, added to his brand and set up an Ireland only agency called Independent Ireland, which focuses on immersive travel to his native Ireland.

 

Evan has an undying interest in education, certification and professional advancement in the industry and has earned his CTA designation to add to his IATA certification. He has served on the board of ASTA’s Young Professional Society as the Vice President and his passion for learning continues today, through destination trainings, attending conferences, and as many webinars/training events as his schedule allows.

 

Patrick McGovern
Vice-President in Account Service, BVK

Pat McGovern is a seasoned marketing and advertising professional. For the past 15-years, he has worked at one of the largest agencies in the state of Wisconsin, BVK. In his role as VP in Account Service, Pat is not only responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of his client, ensuring his clients are moving in the right direction…and pushing them to be thinking of the next steps.He is also part of the new business development team at the agency. His work in this area has helped propel BVK to one of the leading advertising agencies in higher education in the country.

 

Higher education aside, Pat also has an extensive background in the travel space. For years, he serviced The Mark Travel Corporation while at BVK. He has worked on Funjet Vacations, Southwest Vacations, United Vacations, Blue Sky Vacations, and Sun Country Airlines. While servicing the client, Pat was given the rare opportunity to act a CMO responsible for running and operating the business. It was during this time he helped the organization achieve it’s most successful new market launch in its history along with two record years in profits.

 

Pat, also serves as president of the American Marketing Association chapter in his hometown of Milwaukee, WI.When not practicing his craft or writing on the space, Pat is an avid runner and loves to get into a river for a little fly fishing.

 

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

As Professior and Department Chair for Travel Marketing programs, Debbie Wilson, CTA, combines 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.

 

Horst Schulze - Emeritus
Chairman & CEO, WP Hospitality Group Honorary Board Member

Horst Schulze is a legend and leader in the service world.His vision has helped reshape concepts of customer service throughout the hospitality and service industries. Mr. Schulze served as the vice chairman of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company from 2001-2002, after serving as president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Group 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. 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 including Reliance Trust Company; Cancer Treatment Research Foundation; and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Mr. Schulze remains an honorary board member and guiding light for The Travel Institute.

 

Academic Council

 

Jason Coleman, CTC, ECC
President & Chief Visionary, JASON COLEMAN, INC.

Jason Hedrick, CTC, CTIE
Director of Vacation Travel, CI Azumano Travel/American Express

Beci Mahnken, CTC, MCC
President and CEO, MEI Travel

Lisa Sheldon, CTC, CTIE
President, DWHSA

Marie Smith, CTA, VTA
Director of Agent Development and Engagement, KHM Travel