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General Session & Keynotes

Teach and Travel, the Dynamic Partnership Between Educators and Travel Providers

General Session & Panel Discussion
Sunday, August 27
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM

SYTA members are committed partners in changing the lives of students through travel by enhancing the classroom experience and augmenting curricular needs. This panel discussion will help travel providers and field trip destinations connect with the next generation educator to improve communication, itineraries and business models that meet the social studies classroom teacher’s local, regional and overnight field trip needs. Hear directly from the president of the National Council for the Social Studies and other classroom teachers as they describe the current education landscape and trends impacting the social studies teacher and field trip planning needs. Attendees may submit questions in advance of the program. Please email Lisa Berretta at [email protected].

Facilitator: Barbara McCormack, Newseum
Teacher Panel: Peggy Jackson, NBCT, President​ of​ NCSS – Mackie Cox, Social Studies Teacher & President of NMCSS – Randy Martin, NBCT, Social Studies Teacher & Past President of NMCSS – Dr. Diane Ball, NBCT, Executive Director of NMCSS​

Why a Winning Tourism Strategy Offers the Best Offense and Defense in Today’s Changing Times

General Session and Keynote Speaker
Monday, August 28
9:30 AM – 10:30 AM

Doug Lansky, leading travel industry writer and speaker will speak on innovative best-practice solutions to many of the key issues impacting the student travel industry including safety and terrorism and understanding the perception vs the reality. He will help tourism companies learn how to respond to messaging that says it’s not safe to travel.

“Doug hit a Grand Slam with his presentation at our annual conference. He engaged with our folks and participated in our sessions. his closing talk encapsulated two days of sessions and speakers and wrapped up our conference perfectly.” – Bill Lupfer, President, CEO, Florida Attractions Association

Click here to learn more about Doug Lansky.

Education Sessions

Tax Planning for Business Owners

Friday, August 25
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Tax planning is a process of looking at various tax options in order to determine when, whether, and how to conduct business and personal transactions so that taxes are reduced.  Many business owners angst over tax planning, and don’t even think about their taxes until they’re scheduled to meet with their accountant; but tax planning is an ongoing process.  This session focuses on tax strategies unique to the tour industry which ultimately improves your bottom line.  The session will further explore if your business is structured properly to ensure you are maximizing tax deductions.

Speakers: Bill Caldwell and Lisa Curtin, Caldwell & Company

Tax Planning for Individuals

Friday, August 25
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM

Do you run your own business and report income on Schedule C?  Is any of your income reported on Form 1099?  Are you a W-2 employee?  If you answered yes to any of these three questions then this session is for you.  Learn if you are maximizing deductions available to those in the tour and travel industry. Whether you are single, head of household or file a joint return, tax planning is an effective way of maximizing your financial well-being.   This session is a must for anyone who files a tax return.

Speakers: Bill Caldwell, Caldwell & Company

Music Education 101: A Guide to School Music Programs

Friday, August 25
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

This session is for those without a music background better understand the terminologies, structure, content and typical calendar of a school music program. Gain the ability to have more productive, intelligent conversations with clients and be better able to anticipate client needs in the planning process. It may also provide insight into the mindset of music teachers in order to better understand what is important to them.

Speaker: Tom Merrill, Festivals of Music/Music in the Park

Business Continuity

Friday, August 25, 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Saturday, August 26, 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM

Wikipedia defines a business continuity plan as advance preparation for any event that could negatively impact operations such as supply chain interruption, loss of or damage to critical infrastructure or a loss of key human resources. A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) outlines a range of disaster scenarios and the steps the business will take in any particular scenario to return to regular trade. A BCP is a set of contingencies to minimize potential harm to businesses during adverse scenarios. This session will address the most common occurrences faced by the tour and travel industry and suggestion on how those interruptions. Participants will leave the session with a blueprint to build a Business Continuity Plan for their business. Whether you are a business owner, manager or staff member, information gained in this session will arm you with resources to protect your business.

Speakers: Lisa Curtin, Caldwell & Company

Tour Operator Panels and Discussions

Saturday, August 26, 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM: Non-DMO/Non-Receptive Operators
Monday, August 28, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM: DMO/Receptive Operators

Teams of tour operators representing education, performance, and international travel will answer a series of questions frequently asked by suppliers that will help them understand their customers and save time during appointments. Tour operator teams will rotate every 30 minutes.

Safety Preparedness and Crises Communications

Saturday, August 26, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Sunday, August 27, 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Sunday, August 27, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

SYTA’s excited to announce the Safety Preparedness Handbook will be launched at this year’s annual conference. This handbook will provide members with a strategic and comprehensive guide that covers safety preparation and risk mitigation. At the same time, it will also provide protocols, crisis communication planning guidelines and responses to ensure that in the event of a crisis or serious incident, SYTA members will be prepared, well in advance, to mitigate the potential harmful reputational and operational impact of a serious crisis.

Speaker: David Norman, Kitchen Public Relations

 What is the SYTA Youth Foundation?

Saturday, August 26, 3:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Saturday, August 26, 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM

Come hear more about SYTA’s philanthropic arm, the SYTA Youth Foundation. Learn about the mission, the types of Scholarships offered, Running for Youth, and how you and your organization can become more involved.

Travel Insurance: How Are Today’s Turbulent Times Changing the Insurance We Offer Our Customers?

Sunday, August 27
8:30 AM – 9:45 AM

A panel of representatives from leading travel insurance companies will explain the different aspects of today’s travel insurance as well as new regulatory changes.

Speakers: Bud Geissler, Travel Insured International Inc., Jesper Lykke, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, and Greg Takehara, Trip Mate, Inc.

Broadway Classroom Workshop
Sponsored by Group Sales Box Office at

Sunday, August 27
8:30 AM – 9:45 AM

Make your Broadway debut at a special Broadway Classroom Education Session and experience why this program is “a must” for your groups!

Taught by a Broadway musical director, you’ll learn a song from the hit Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.

Later, get Up Close and Personal with special guests straight from Broadway, including Come From Away performer Julie Reiber and her real-life counterpart Captain Beverley Bass, the trailblazing pilot who was the first female captain for American Airlines. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a conversation with the pilot of one of the 38 planes to take refuge in Gander on 9/11 and the woman who portrays her on Broadway.

Technology: Changes in Technology Ranks as Top Challenge for SYTA Members

Sunday, August 27
8:30 AM – 9:45 AM

An annual conference favorite, this session will explore new technology platforms, software, apps and other advances that will improve your business.  We need to talk about the technology in your pocket or purse, your screens, your car, your toaster; what you are watching and who is watching you. We will offer tips and insights on how to manage your tech for productivity, profit, privacy and pleasure.

Speaker: John Kamm and Daniel Weiss, TourTools by Adatasol

Tour Operator Forum

Monday, August 28
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM

Facilitated discussion with active members on opportunities and challenges facing student tour operators today and in the future.

Facilitators: Tami Rogers, Bob Rogers Travel; Mike Grueninger, Grueninger Music Tours

Marketing Destinations in Turbulent Times

Monday, August 28
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Doug Lansky presents the most innovative practices of forward-thinking destinations. With more destinations than ever competing for visitors, you need to get a step a head by finding out what works and what doesn’t — this session is  filled with fresh concepts, perspectives and insightful analysis that will help you rethink the way you market and develop your destination.

Speaker: Doug Lansky, Travel Writer and Speaker

Global Travel: How Doing Good is Changing Young Lives Through Travel

Monday, August 28
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Jeff Peterson, Founder of Global Travel Alliance and Global Doing Good, will discuss his service and adventure programs for middle and high school students.   Designing and providing impactful service trips is not easy, but if done well can truly provide life-changing experiences.  Topics will include:  What are some realistic goals to set and effective strategies/models to use?  How can groups help without hurting?  What is a reasonable, and honest, definition of an “authentic experience”?  What are the pitfalls to avoid?  How can adventure and education be successfully integrated into the trip experience?  How can service trips help your company?

Speaker: Jeff Peterson, Global Travel Alliance

Strategic Partners