October 22 – 26, 2016 • Westin La Paloma • Tucson, Arizona
The FTA’s annual Summit is a trade-only, conferencse-style event that brings together family travel experts, industry leaders, and media for three days of inspiring presentations, interactive workshops, enlightening research, and a diverse array of networking opportunities. It is becoming the preeminent industry event to:
- Network with family-focused tour operators and media
- Further personal development and knowledge of the trends in family travel
- Help promote your destination’s family product to the travel industry’s influencers and decision-makers
Please note that this ‘wireframe’ Summit program is a work in progress. Thus it is very much still open to adjustments as details are finalized.
Local destinations in Arizona are offering select media and buyers pre-event FAM tours. Click here to see the list of FAMs offered by:
FTA Summit Agenda
This year’s Summit agenda is filled with opportunities to network with peers, absorb cutting-edge trends and key information, connect with media, and more! (Note that the agenda posted here is a work in progress and thus subject to change.)
Saturday, October 22, 2016
|Board, staff & VIPs arrive|
|Pub o’ the Night! (Informal, ‘no host’ networking) – Azul bar|
Sunday, October 23, 2016
|All day||Delegates arrive|
|9:00-1:30||Board meeting (closed meeting)|
|1:00-All day||Press room, presented by Visit Sunny Arizona|
|2:00-4:30||Opening Keynotes and ‘State of the FTA’ presentations!
|4:45-5:30||Breakout sessions 1
Breakout 1A: The Influence of the Grandparent Effect: As baby boomers become the largest demographic segment in the U.S., learn why grandparents will continue to lead the growth of multigenerational travel and how to best speak to them.
Breakout 1B: Marketing to Traveling Families: What are some of the best techniques in reaching and influencing potential family travelers? Learn best practices from some of the largest and active advertisers in the category.
Breakout 1C: The Rise of Volunteer & Purpose/Impact Family Travel: Research shows that families, more than any other demographic segment, have the greatest interest in volunteer travel. What is the industry doing to address this enthusiasm and what opportunities can we create to capitalize on it. Hear from some FTA members who are already very much engaged.
|6:00-9:00||Fiesta Area welcome reception! Presented by The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa and Visit Tucson.|
|9:00+||Pub o’ the Night! (Informal, ‘no host’ networking) – Poolside fire pits|
Monday, October 24, 2016
|All day||Exhibits open|
|All day||Press room, presented by Visit Sunny Arizona|
|9:00-9:30||General session: Vacatia.com – Caroline Shin, CEO and Co-Founder of Vacatia.com – presented by South Dakota Department of Tourism|
|9:45-10:30||Breakout sessions 2
Breakout 2A: Understanding Millennial Parents: Today’s fast-growing and emerging demographic are not just tech wielding young people hanging out in Starbucks – they’re becoming parents, and represent a big opportunity to grow your family travel business. Find out what makes them tick from the experts who know them best.
Breakout 2B: The Continuing Evolution of the Sharing Economy: Websites like HomeExchange and CouchSurfing changed forever how we travel in the 21st Century. Where has this revolution gone, where is it going, and how can it help make travel more accessible for families.
Breakout 2C: Curing Nature Deficit Disorder: The National Parks Service promoted its 100th Anniversary to get more people into the great outdoors. We’ll explore why this is so important, what we can do to sway more families to experience nature and its incredible benefits and how it can grow our business.
Breakout 2D: Family Travel: A Global Perspective: How do families vary from around the world? What are their different habits and attitudes when it comes to traveling as a family? What can we learn from these different perspectives and how can we adopt our products and services to increase sales from a more globalized market?
|10:50-11:35||Breakout sessions 3
Breakout 3A: The Changing Faces of Family Travel: Google “Family Travel” images, and you’ll find mostly white parents playing on the beach with their young son and daughter. Look in the real world, and you’ll see something much more diverse. Discover who these underrepresented “real” family traveler are and why we can’t ignore them anymore.
Breakout 3B: What Dude Ranchers Can Teach the Travel Industry: The dude ranch experience goes well beyond what we see in City Slickers. Did you know that nearly 80% of dude ranch guests are families? What can we learn from these small businesses who boast some of the highest repeat customers in the industries? A lot!
Breakout 3C: TOUR is Not a Four-Letter Word: Too many people think tours are just for people who want to be lead around in large groups by a guide carrying a big red flag. Wrong. Find out why they can be the perfect solution for families and what the secrets are for building successful family vacation packages.
|11:50-12:20||Keynote panel – Travel Agents: On the Front Lines
Kenneth Shapiro, Travel Age West
Sally Black, Vacation Kids
Nancy Damianeas, Hermes Travel
Cari Gray – Gray & Co.
|12:20-12:50||MSC Cruises Sponsor Presentation|
|12:50-2:00||Networking lunch, presented by MSC Cruises|
|2:30-5:30||Networking activities, possibly to include:
|9:00+||Pub o’ the Night! (Informal, ‘no host’ networking) – Contigo restaurant deck|
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
|All day||Exhibits open|
|All day||Press room, presented by Visit Sunny Arizona|
|8:30-9:00||General session & awards presentation|
Bill Street, Corporate Curator of Conservation and Education, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (SEA)
|9:30-12:00||Networking activities, possibly to include:
|12:30-1:30||Poolside networking lunch|
|1:45-3:15||Industry Charette: Delegates will break up into groups to find solutions to the challenge of ‘How to Inspire Families to Travel More’ (session will include a moderator)|
|3:30-5:30||Media Meet-Up! – Meet the 40+ attending trade and consumer media that are attending the Summit (with coffee break service), presented by MSC Cruises|
|6:00-6:40||Delegates board networking shuttles|
|6:45-9:00||Cowboy cookout at Tanque Verde Ranch! Presented by Arizona Office of Tourism and Tanque Verde Ranch.|
|9:30-9:30||Networking shuttle back to Westin|
|9:30+||Pub o’ the Night! (Informal, ‘no host’ networking) – Azul bar|
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
|Exhibits tear down|
Sally Black considers herself extremely fortunate to be able to spend her days working on her two favorite passions in life – parenting and travel. She established Vacationkids as one of the first home-based travel agencies back in 2001 as a means to balance family and career. Sally created Vacationkids with the notion that a family vacation is much more than just a week at the beach. Travel offers parents a vital means to teach important life lessons to kids in a fun and engaging way, while creating family bonds that will last for generations.
Sally caught the travel bug herself as a single mother with three young children. She left her position as a pediatric nurse to become marketing director for one of the first online travel companies. She quickly found herself speaking, consulting and traveling the globe, often with her kids along for the ride. This practical experience, parental multitasking and first-hand travel knowledge is what she shares with her clients. She’s also offers this unique insight during national TV interviews on CNN, ABC and NBC. Sally has also been quoted by the New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Hermes Travel Corp.
As a full time travel agent for over 23 years, I have traveled to 18 countries and have lived in Greece and Dubai! I love to travel and am passionate about helping others realize their travel dreams!
As a full time, store front agency, Hermes Travel was established by my mother in 1980. After graduating from Hofstra University with a specialization in English & American Literature, I decided to continue working as a travel advisor full time. Managing all aspects of travel, from airline tickets to around the world tours, I can organize any trip for our clients.
I am a certified Sandals & Beaches agent, a Hawaii Destination Expert, as well as a Tahiti Certified Specialist. My destination specialties also include Costa Rica, Greece, Italy & all of Europe. I really enjoy booking family vacations and honeymoons!
Maureen Miller is a marketing strategist who is passionate about building and growing new enterprises. At Disney, she leads marketing strategy for growth and emerging businesses – specifically, Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii and Adventures by Disney, which provides group guided vacations to more than thirty countries around the world. In the last year, she has worked with her team to pioneer a campaign to drive interest and understanding in Disney’s ‘real world’ vacations. Maureen has also provided consumer insight and marketing strategy support to Walt Disney Imagineering and the development of Shanghai Disney Resort. Prior to Disney, Maureen worked as a consultant at Oliver Wyman, working on a range of strategy initiatives for Fortune 500 companies.
Maureen is a mom of a three year old, Annie, and is deeply passionate about family travel. Maureen graduated from Princeton University and has a MBA from Harvard Business School.
Estee Rivera Murdock
National Park Service
Estee Rivera Murdock has worked for the National Park Service for 8 years, currently in the Washingon headquarters office as the Every Kid in a Park National Coordinator. She previously worked on partnership development with the NPS Centennial Office, working to engage new audiences and encourage new visitors to “Find Your Park”. Prior to moving to DC, she worked at Saguaro National Park for over 6 years as the Community Engagement Coordinator, with an emphasis on engaging the local Latino community and youth. She has also worked for the US Forest Service and as a consulting archaeologist in the western US and Mexico. She has MA in Geography with a focus on Hispanic perceptions of national parks and community engagement. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science, and a BA in Anthropology and Spanish Literature, all from the University of Arizona. Her professional and academic experiences have taught her to engage a broad range of audiences, oftentimes underrepresented in public lands, by linking interpretation, scholarship, and research with the National Park Service mission and a love for the Sonoran Desert. She was awarded the Rising Leader Award from The Murie Center in 2014 for her efforts in engaging new and diverse audiences. Estee is Southern Arizona native, currently living in Maryland, with her husband and daughter.
President, Big Five Tours & Expeditions
Spend just a few minutes with Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours & Expeditions, and you see clearly that he is driven by passion. He heads the luxury travel company that his father, Mahen Sanghrajka, launched in 1973 in Nairobi, Kenya. Sanghrajka attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, graduating with a degree in political science, with a special focus on international economics. He worked in Charles Schwab’s Capital Markets Division an economic analyst and trainer. He joined Big Five in 2002, and became president in 2008, taking over the helm from his father, who continues as Big Five’s CEO.
In 2014, Sanghrajka joined the Board of Directors of Millennials in Travel as Director of Industry Relations. Also that year, Sanghrajka spearheaded the creation of Big Five’s Precious Journeys® collection of family-focused journeys centered around younger children, ages five to 11, using the best options such as the number and length of flights on any day, hours spent driving between destinations, flexibility in meal options, availability of children’s programs, etc. Then, in 2016 came Precious Journeys® College Edition, which concentrates on the next steps for our future leaders as they discover their own voices. Sanghrajka speaks frequently about empowering children through travel to change the world. Sanghrajka lives in Stuart, Florida with his wife and two young children.
Editor-in- Chief, TravelAge West, Family Getaways, Explorer
As Editor-in-Chief of Travel Age West, Ken Shapiro has overseen the growth of this beloved travel trade brand. He successfully launched Family Getaways, covering family and multigenerational travel, and Explorer, focused on adventure and experiential travel. Under his guidance, all three titles have received numerous national and international editorial, design and online awards. TravelAge West also presents the annual WAVE (Western Agents Votes of Excellence) Awards for travel suppliers, which has become the premier travel industry award program in the Western U.S. Shapiro is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and has won writing awards from numerous organizations, including SATW and the North American Travel Journalists Association. He is also a recipient of the Diamond Award from the Southern California chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents. He lives with his wife and their two children in Los Angeles.
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder,
Caroline is a seasoned travel and hospitality executive who is passionate about building companies that embrace technology to deliver a stellar customer experience. She was the lead website architect on the startup team at Hotwire.com and later managed supplier relations and P&L for the company. Caroline also led global CRM and revenue management functions for Starwood Hotels and Resorts. As SVP at Sentient Jet, she oversaw client services and command center operations, and launched a new technology platform for flight management. Caroline has advised and founded several startups and spent her early career as a technology and strategy consultant at Accenture and Scient, working with Fortune 500 and startup clients. Caroline has a degree in Nuclear Engineering from MIT.
Corporate Curator of Conservation and Education,
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (SEA)
Bill Street is a passionate environmental educator and conservationist. He is the Corporate Curator of Conservation and Education at SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (SEA), the largest zoological institution in the world. In this capacity, he looks after the conservation and education efforts of the company, including most revenue generating efforts of the zoological departments, supporting new exhibit design and development, consulting and developing with conservation and zoological partners and developing the strategic and business plans for the zoological departments. He is one of the company’s spokespeople and has appeared on several national television programs, including Good Morning America and the Today Show.
Bill is an active member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, National Science Teachers Association, an advisor to the Children in Nature campaign, and a Board Member on both the International Zoo Educators Association and SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, which has to date given over $10 million in grants to conservation and education organizations. He assists and consults with zoological facilities on how to increase guest experience, revenues, and design new attractions.
Before working in his current capacity, Bill was the Senior Director of Education at the National Wildlife Federation, a non-profit based in Washington D.C. that protects North American wildlife and wild places. He has been a leader at several significant aquariums including the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. He served as an adjunct professor at California State University in Long Beach. Bill started his career as an educator at SeaWorld Orlando.
Thomson Family Adventures
Moo has lived 20 years in the travel industry, 13 of them in the family travel market at Thomson Family Adventures. Here Moo continues with her lifelong motto of “thinking outside of the box since the 70’s” creating and delivering exceptional, unique experiences for families of all ages. With deep personal knowledge and connections in 18 countries on 4 continents, she is pretty happy with her niche expertise; she’d rather know a lot about one place than a little about a million. Moo lives in Boston with 3 grown kids nearby.
Laurie K. Bohn
Director, Trade Sales and National Training
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. Recently she was appointed to the Board of Trustees with The Travel Institute – the education destination for all travel professionals. The Institute fulfills its non-profit mission to promote a standard of trade knowledge and excellence for the travel industry.
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.
Laurie resides in South Florida and is a graduate from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Founding Partner, The Clear Creek Group
Morgan is a Founding Partner of The Clear Creek Group. His love of the Rocky Mountains, fly-fishing, and the desire to be a part of a vibrant, sophisticated, mountain community led him to Jackson. Within the company, his primary focus is business development, public relations, and marketing.
After managing a wine wholesale company in Atlanta, Georgia and graduating from The University of Georgia, Morgan began a quest to develop a high-end, fly-fishing lodge. When it became apparent the development of such a lodge was not feasible in or near Jackson, a search for trends in hospitality ensued; luxury villa rentals became the obvious alternative. Unlike other, well known vacation destinations, high-end villa rentals were not prevalent in Jackson Hole in 2002. It seemed the perfect opportunity, a niche unfilled.
Residing in Teton Village, Morgan enjoys cooking, wine, travel, and fly-fishing. He is dedicated to providing the highest level of service to The Clear Creek Group’s clients and thrives on developing meaningful relationships, both with those clients and with members of his community, one of the company’s key tenets.
Vice President and Editor in Chief, AFAR
Julia Cosgrove is the Vice President and Editor in Chief of AFAR, the critically-acclaimed media brand that inspires, guides, and enables travelers to have deeper, richer, and more fulfilling experiences. Under Julia’s leadership, AFAR is the only brand to win a Lowell Thomas Award every year since launch—Best Travel Magazine every year, Best Website for the past four years, and Best Travel App in 2014—and the only brand to be an ASME finalist for General Excellence across both print and digital. Last year AFAR won six top FOLIO awards, including Best Full Issue and Best Website. Prior to launching AFAR in 2008, Julia was a writer and editor at media companies big and small, including Time Out and the Meredith Corporation. A graduate of Barnard College, Julia has taught magazine writing and design at the d.school at Stanford University.
Laura Davidson is the creative force behind LDPR, a leading New York-based PR agency specializing in travel and lifestyle clients. For over 20 years LDPR has been an industry leader, constantly stretching the traditional boundaries of PR, embracing new digital solutions and creating award-winning programs for its roster of top international clients, including FTA members Abercrombie & Kent and Atlantis, Bahamas.
Committed to giving back, Laura involves her agency in several philanthropic initiatives—from sponsoring teachers
at a school in Benin, West Africa to sending soccer gear to orphanages in Africa. Laura was personally honored by Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association (HSMAI) in 2008 with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Laura lives in Weston, Connecticut with her husband Andrew Bill, and her sons Tobey (15) and Jake (14) who are both intrepid travelers, ticking off destinations almost as quickly as mom does.
Laura currently serves as a board member of the Family Travel Association (FTA).
Melanie Fish is HomeAway’s family travel expert. She tracks trends in the vacation rental industry and helps travelers transition from seeing renting private vacation homes as an alternative to the mainstream option it is now. She introduced the HomeAway Eiffel Tower Apartment to the world in a Facebook live event with 150-thousand people watching, and is a resource for reporters covering the fastest-growing trend in the travel industry. HomeAway is the world leader in vacation rentals with sites representing more than one 1.2 million paid listings of vacation rental homes in 190 countries, and is a part of the Expedia, Inc. family of brands.
Vice President of Communications
Kampgrounds of America Inc.
Mike Gast has been the vice president of Communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. since April 2001.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. now has 490 family campground locations throughout North America.
Gast came to KOA after nearly 25 years on the editorial and marketing sides of the newspaper business.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota School of Journalism, he worked at newspapers in Aberdeen, S.D., Billings, MT, and Corvallis, Oregon before joining KOA in Billings in 2001
Globus Family of Brands
Obsessed with all-things culture – from entertainment and the arts to customs and cuisine – Melanie Gravdal loves to travel, to see and experience new things, new people and new places that broaden her horizon and view on life. And, for the last two decades, Melanie has made traveling the world a central theme in her career as a communications professional. Working with travel and lifestyle brands from around the globe, she provides public relations counsel and support ranging from strategic storytelling and brand messaging to pavement-pounding street marketing and special events. Originally from Iowa, Melanie now calls Southern California her home.
Warren Green & Associates
“We are about finding and promoting those ventures that take their surroundings seriously.” ~ Warren
Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Warren’s passion for wildlife and the outdoors has led him down a career path focused on conservation. He served in the South African National Defense Force, pioneered wilderness trails, led multi-cultural youth groups across South African mountains and escorted over 5000 travelers on photographic safaris through the African bush. He is an Honorary Ranger of the South African National Parks Board, and was appointed lodge manager and then International Marketing and Sales Manager at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, which adjoins South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park.
Warren moved to the U.S. in 2000 and is the owner and founder of Warren Green & Associates, a niche marketing company that supports tourism ventures that protect, respect and preserve the environment and culture in the areas in which they operate. As a member of the Board of Directors of The Wetlands Project, Warren directs our objectives to promote the principles of sustainable tourism in wetland areas. He has an International Marketing Diploma from Damelin College in South Africa, has served on the board of the non-profit Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa, founded the Footprints Foundation and serves on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Waterman’s Heritage Tour Program.
Tourism Sales Manager, Visit Anchorage
Born in Branson, Missouri and raised in 13 different states, to say Jara was groomed for a career in the travel industry is an understatement. Her professional experience includes work as an outdoor adventure guide, science center educator, ticket office supervisor, and sales and marketing manager. For the past 3 years Jara Haas has worked as a tourism development and sales manager for Visit Anchorage. Her focuses are adventure travel, student/youth travel, family travel, and the Russia and Latin America markets. In her spare time Jara enjoys hiking, biking and pack rafting her way through the wilderness of Alaska with her two children in tow.
Loyalty & Retention Manager, Lindblad Expeditions
Amy Harrigan is the Loyalty & Retention Manager at Lindblad Expeditions, a small-ship expedition travel company in alliance with National Geographic. In this multi-channel marketing role, Amy oversees retention strategies, prospecting, shipboard marketing and branding, and family marketing initiatives.
A member of the Lindblad marketing team for the past 6 years, prior to her current role, Amy managed the marketing and advertising campaigns for the company’s core South American geographies: Galápagos, Upper Amazon, and Machu Picchu & the Land of the Inca.
Amy has spent the past 16 years in the travel industry, working for leading operators such as Lindblad Expeditions and Abercrombie & Kent, and as Marketing Director for the member-based travel program of the American Museum of Natural History, AMNH Expeditions.
Amy lives in Chicago, IL and enjoys outdoor photography, live music, adding new stamps to her passport, and stand-up paddleboarding when Lake Michigan allows!
Executive Director, National Dude Ranchers Association
Having been born and raised in Alaska I have always loved the outdoors and all it has to offer. I moved to Cody Wyoming as a young adult and fell head over heels in love with the western way of life. Being the Director of the National Dude Ranchers Association for the last 15 years has allowed me the opportunity to experience some of the most majestic places and people the good ole USA has to offer. At the DRA we are all about Horses, Hats, History, Hospitality, Heart and Honesty.
Previously to being employed by the DRA my husband and I ran a very successful summer pack trip and outfitting business along with a water business and candy business.
Live Family Travel
Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. Since 2012, Cliff has traveled with his family in 20 countries on 4 continents. His daughters, ages 7 and 4, have gone to local schools in 6 countries including the U.S.A., Guatemala, Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Spain. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.
Director of Marketing and Sales, Southwind Adventures
Dana Johnson has a Master’s degree in exercise physiology with an emphasis in sports psychology. In addition to having experience as a travel client, guide and advisor, she has spent years as a corporate trainer for several fortune 500 companies. This unique combination has launched Dana into a new space within the travel industry. Working with chambers, tourism boards, tour operators, hoteliers, outfitters and travel agencies she teaches them the importance of experiential communication. With her humorous, relaxed style, Dana teaches anyone how to gain trust quickly with clients and create the best most memorable experiences for all involved.
Publisher, AKontheGo.com; Managing Editor Outdoor Families Magazine; Author, Alaska On the Go: Exploring the 49th state with children
Erin Kirkland grew up in the forests of Washington State and has dedicated her life to advocating benefits of outdoor recreation for children. A resident of Anchorage, Alaska, Erin is publisher of AKontheGO.com, the state’s only family travel resource. She authored two books about exploring Alaska with kids, and serves as a board member of Get Outdoors Anchorage, a coalition created to empower children within Alaska’s largest city.
Erin is also co-founder and managing editor of Outdoor Families Magazine, a global online publication with the sole purpose of connecting all families to a variety of outdoor-themed destinations, activities, and new experiences.
Executive General Manager
Breckenridge & Keystone Destinations
Jesse Larson is Executive General Manager in Breckenridge and Keystone, Colorado for Wyndham Vacation Rentals, the world’s largest manager of vacation rentals. Larson brings more than 20 years of hospitality experience to his role of managing the 400 units within his territory. His diverse background in the hotel, timeshare and vacation rental industries gives him a well-rounded perspective on the accommodations available to families. Married for 12 years and a father of two young children, he personally appreciates the comforts of vacation rentals when traveling, and looks forward to sharing his thoughts on this exciting segment of the travel industry.
Steve is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the O.A.R.S. Family of Companies and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. Since joining O.A.R.S. in 2002, Steve has paddled, biked, hiked and explored more than 20 countries on 6 continents. His passion for conservation and adventure has helped align the company with dozens of environmental organizations and strategic partners worldwide and his unique brand of marketing has helped O.A.R.S. to achieve measurable and sustainable growth during his tenure. He lives with his wife Nichole and their Son Preston in the Sierra Foothills overlooking the Stanislaus River Canyon.
Executive Vice President and Family Travel Specialist, Absolute Travel
Leslie Overton is the Executive Vice President and Family Travel Specialist at Absolute Travel. She has worked with Absolute Travel for 23 years, facilitating the company’s growth from a 3 person start-up focused on Southeast Asia, to a 25 person, Travel & Leisure World’s Best Tour Operator specializing in luxury travel across seven continents. She is proud to have been Conde Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist for Family Travel to Exotic Destinations for 8 years. Leslie also founded the award-winning Absolute Travel’s philanthropic-focused Absolute oAwareness division, which has taken her from meetings with Nobel Peace Prize winners in Liberia to collaborating with grassroots human rights defenders in Guatemala. This division has worked with organizations as diverse as Human Rights Watch, World Wildlife Foundation and American Jewish World Service on donor engagement trips. Leslie has been quoted in publications including Conde? Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, New York Times and Forbes; was a regular contributor to Market Research’s Reality Check; and lectured to customer service management trainees from Li & Fung for several years. Leslie has visited over 60 countries and is always looking forward to her next journey – especially if it is with her 3 kids!
Co-Founder and CEO, Trekaroo
LiLing Pang is the co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo and the Trekaroo Influencer Network. In 2009, she founded Trekaroo.com, an online community powered by the advice of thousands of traveling families. Under LiLing’s leadership, Trekaroo has grown into one of the most trusted names in family travel. The Trekaroo website and its team of travel experts have won numerous awards including Visit California’s Eureka Award two years running. It has also been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CBS News, Fox News, Woman’s Day, Huffington Post, and Mashable.
LiLing graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. With a decade in strategic marketing, digital marketing, and product development working with Fortune 500 brands, she now leverages her expertise to help destinations and travel brands develop and execute their content marketing and influencer marketing strategies. In 2015, she launched the Trekaroo Influencer Network to lead the way on how the travel industry works collaboratively with digital influencers. The network’s clients include KOA, Vail Resorts, Visit Idaho, Go Blue Ridge Travel, Visit Camarillo, and the U.S. Travel Association.
Adventures by Daddy
Dave Parfitt is a married father of two, who lives in Rochester, New York. In addition to applying his PhD in neuroscience at a bucolic western New York college, he launched AdventuresbyDaddy.com to chronicle his family adventures and offer family travel advice and escapist fun from a Dad’s perspective. Dave is also a regular contributor to a number of freelance outlets including Fox News Travel, U.S. News & World Report Travel, Huffington Post, and others.
Tierra del Volcan
Jorge is a passionate traveler, proud father of three children, mountain biker and nature lover. A pioneer on a private land conservation with more than 15 years of experience in this field, working as the Executive Director of Fundación Páramo .
Having worked in the travel industry for more than 20 years, Jorge is Founder of Tierra del Volcan, an eco-tourism, family, and adventure travel company, based on the Andean Highlands, creating a model of adrenaline fueled conservation. He is also Founder of World Bike Adventures, a company focused on prime single track mountain bike riding around the world, and also former president of ASEC, (Ecuadorian Association of Ecotourism), promoting sustainable and consciousness travel.
Co-Founder Connections Education
Mickey Revenaugh is co-founder Connections Education, a pioneering provider of K-12 online learning that is part of the Pearson family, and serves as General Manager of International Connections Academy, a quality global virtual private school. Previously, Mickey helped launch the E-rate to wire every American school to the Internet, and was education technology editor at Scholastic. Mickey has a BA from Yale University, an MBA from New York University, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College. This month alone she is traveling to London, New Delhi, Jamaica, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, and Virginia.
@mickeyrevenaugh on Twitter
Director of Communications
In six exciting years as director of communications at UnCruise Adventures, Sarah Scoltock has worked with a core team to successfully grow the company’s business from three to nine ships along with an expansion to Hawaii, Central and South America. The small ship adventure cruise line attracts travelers—including families with kids—for a week of nature and wildlife exploration in remote and scenic destinations. An avid traveler, sailor and Pacific Northwest native, Sarah began her travel industry career working on board small ships for Cruise West in Alaska. She has also managed public relations for Windstar Cruises and Holland America Line. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Nothing makes her happier than seeing her kids enjoying themselves outside in nature without noses buried in digital devices.
Founder & Managing Editor, Family Travel Network
Nancy Schretter is the Founder & Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network and President of Beacon Group Holdings, Inc., a diversified holding company that has operated businesses in the travel and publishing fields since 1988. The Family Travel Network first launched in partnership with America Online in 1995 and has served the needs of millions of family travelers.
As an award-winning writer and editor, Nancy’s articles, insights and quotes on travel have been featured in USA TODAY, Businessweek, American Way, Redbook, Family Fun, Family Circle, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Leisure Group Travel, Travelocity, Travel Weekly, TravelAge West, Courier, TravelWorld Magazine and many other print and online publications. Nancy has appeared as a family travel expert on television and radio shows including The TODAY Show, CNN, and NBC News.
Global Family Travels
Jennifer is the Founder and CEO of Global Family Travels, a company whose mission is to “Learn, Serve and Immerse,” using travel as a means to build cultural bridges and to foster global citizens. In partnership with local non-profit organizations, Global Family Travels’ itineraries feature meaningful service projects aimed at improving the lives of the people in communities they visit, educational sightseeing, cultural immersion, and, in some cases, home stays with local families.
Jennifer’s passion for international travel and bridging cultures stems from her experiences living abroad in six countries with her family. Prior to founding Global Family Travels, Jennifer spent her career in international development, trade and finance, travelling extensively for work in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Jennifer graduated from High School in Vienna, Austria at the American International School, received her B.S. in Anthropology and International Political Science from Bates College in Maine and a M.S. degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University.
President, Scott Dunn USA
Having run a successful safari company for nearly 20 years, John Spence joined award-winning luxury tour operator Scott Dunn in 2016 as President of its USA office based in California. John is a passionate advocate for family travel and its ability to broaden young minds and open hearts. He’s lived and worked in Africa and explored the continent on various intrepid adventures, often with his family in tow. John is married to Emma and has two children, Jack and Lily.
Director, Global Brand Development and Marketing
PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors)
After a decade with Oakley, I joined PADI in August of 2013, realizing my childhood dream to work in, on or connected to the ocean and the creatures that inhabit its waters. In my role as Global Brand Director, I aim to inspire more people to connect with the underwater world each and every day-whether that is to start, keep or teach diving. PADI has been the world leader in teaching the world to dive for 50 years, and as we move into the next 50, we strive to be not just best in the world, but best for the world. Diving is the ideal way for everyone to explore our ocean planet of which 70% is covered in water. From snorkeling adventures in Hawaii to ice diving in Antarctica or freediving with humpback whales in Tonga, there is no shortage of magic and wonder that the ocean holds for all ages. I am as passionate about encouraging others-especially women, families and the younger generations- to explore our aquatic realm as much as getting them to love and protect it. My team is committed to mining incredible stories from around the globe that will inspire others to follow their diving dreams and get their ‘My PADI’-once someone becomes a diver, their lives are transformed forever by the experience and the ocean gains another ambassador to share her stories. Achieving a dive certification is not an item to be checked off a list, but rather a gateway to a bottomless bucket full of endless adventure and discovery.
I reside in Laguna Beach, California and I know I will never live far from the sea. When I’m not scuba or freediving, I race Outrigger Canoes and surf the Southern California coast where I am always nourishing my Blue Mind.
Gina Vercesi is an award-winning freelance writer with an adventurous spirit and unwavering wanderlust. In 2009 Gina founded Kids Unplugged, leading weekly hikes for families near her home in New York’s Hudson Valley. Kids Unplugged has since evolved into a vibrant travel site with an emphasis on featuring unique, off-the-grid journeys for families.
A storyteller and nature girl, Gina’s writing frequently covers her travel exploits on land, water, and snow. She has contributed to numerous digital and print publications including the Boston Globe, Sierra, Islands, Lonely Planet, National Parks, and Yankee. Gina is also one of Ski Vermont’s All Mountain Mamas and is the Unplugged Traveling Mom for the Traveling Mom writers network. She lives in a friendly village on the Hudson River with her husband, three daughters, and a very good dog.
Writer, Editor, Expedia
Matt Villano, father of two girls (ages 5 and 3), is a full-time freelance writer who specializes in family travel (among other subjects). Over the years, he has penned pieces for publications including TIME, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Fast Company, Sunset, and Scholastic Parent & Child, to name a few. He has served as the family travel columnist for Parenting.com, and adventure travel blogger for DiscoverAmerica.com. Currently, he is senior editor of the Expedia Viewfinder travel blog. He also writes about his family’s adventures on his own blog, Wandering Pod. Villano is based in Northern California. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.
Kristin Luz has been traveling her entire adult life, so it only made sense to help others do the same. From trekking the Inca Trail to sailing on a 50-foot yacht in Greece and visiting village markets in Morocco, Luz and her family have done and seeContinue Reading Story
The 2023 Family Travel Association annual family travel survey highlights post-pandemic trends, positive attitudes and opportunities for growth. Today, the Family Travel Association released findings from its 2023 U.S. Family Travel Survey on familyContinue Reading Story
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Big Five Tours & Expeditions began in Kenya in 1973 as a safari company for East Africa. This year, the family business celebrates 50 years of offering travel all around the world. Started by Mahen Sanghrajka after he discovered a love of travel,Continue Reading Story