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LeaDiele_headshotLea Diele is a 26-year travel industry veteran who started out as a corporate travel agent. Now, Lea currently develops and manages the Independent Contractor Programs for Travel Leaders Network. It is here that she developed a program specifically designed for current Host Agencies that are committed to working with an elite peer-group toward greater growth and profitability, as well as talent acquisition and IC recruitment. In addition to her role with Travel Leaders Network, Lea works closely with Universities and Colleges that offer certifications and degrees in Travel and Hospitality Management. She is a Certified Travel Associate, Certified Adventure Travel Specialist, and a Certified Travel Industry Executive. Based in Arvada, Colorado, Lea enjoys her time with her family and finds solace at their mountain cabin on the weekends. Read the rest of this entry »

steve_simao2Steve Simao, Vice President of Sales for Windstar Cruises, got his start working in Allentown, Pennsylvania working in operations at a local theme park, and has since been in the cruise industry for the last 20 years. An avid cruiser from a young age, he aspired to work within the Cruise industry. Graduating from Mansfield University with a BS in Business Administration with an emphasis on travel and tourism, Steve currently oversees both domestic and international sales for Windstar Cruises. In the past Steve has served as the Purser for the Holland America’s annual Grand World Voyage, quite an experience for the books. To learn more about Steve Simao, Windstar Cruises, and his role in the travel industry, continue on to his interview with Travel Research Online.

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Jeff Pic 2Jeffrey Pawid, Business Development Manager for Events 365, powered by Ticket Evolution, has been a traveler at heart since a young age. Jeffrey started his career in travel working in sales, but since making the switch to the supplier’s side he has never looked back. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, and currently finds himself working with the suite of booking solutions that are custom built for the travel agency community, where consultants can now make commission on shows, concerts, sporting events, theatre, and so much more. Jeffrey is thrilled to be in a position to help travel companies evolve by being able to offer their clients a wider variety of ticketing options.

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Ted Sykes Headshot

With over 20 years of travel industry experience, Ted Sykes knows cruising. Before coming to American Queen Steamboat Company he had previously been CEO of eWaterways, as well as CFO of Viking and The Vantage Group. Ted made his entry into deep sea cruising by launching the cruise shipping division of Saga Group in England, where he served as CEO from conception to full operation. Holding a B.B.A in Finance from the University of Wisconsin, Ted Sykes got his start in the travel industry through finance; before diving head first into travel he was a partner with Young & Rubicam, Inc. In 2012 Ted became President and COO of American Queen Steamboat Company where he remains, spending each day working to provide customers with the experiences they desire. 

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tammy CEO of Elite Travel, business strategist, and Resident Travel Expert for ABC’s featured show Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend are just a few of the titles that Tammy Levent claims. She is an immensely successful entrepreneur, having started her first business as a teenager. Tammy conducts seminars and events to get her message of strategic partnerships to large audiences; she also offers private consulting to help other business owners and entrepreneurs grow. Travel is Tammy’s passion, so in the face of hardship she decided to jump into the industry and make good out of the bad; it was then that she built Elite Travel, a travel management company that has done millions in traveled business. Now over twenty years later, she continues to work hard to educate and teach others the ins and outs of the travel industry. Read the rest of this entry »

unspecifiedTerri Burke (MCC, CTC) has an extensive and varied travel background spanning over 30 years.  Her travel industry career began as a frontline agent and includes executive positions with supplier and retail industry leaders including Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, Cruise Planners/American Express, AAA National and the Globus family of brands. As part of her travel industry career, she has successfully developed and coordinated two award-winning online travel agent universities and is a champion of travel industry education and accreditation.  Through the Avalon Waterways Specialist program, Burke inspired travel professionals to become certified with this important online river cruise training tool.


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Peter Wen, Founder of Stunning China

Stunning China was founded by Peter Wen, who was born and raised in China. Peter received his Master’s degree in Economics from the Georgia Institute of Technology at Atlanta, Georgia. During his years in the travel industry, he has worked closely with U.S. travel agents, igniting his passion to introduce his native China to more agents and their clients. Stunning China specializes in land tours and all-inclusive packages in China. Besides tours to the major sights such as Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou, Stunning China also operates customized and private, off-the-beaten-path tours.

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Jane Behrend July 2016 headshot

An expert in adventure and wildlife destinations worldwide, Jane Behrend started her own travel marketing company in 1989 after learning the business as an account executive in public relations and advertising sales. She started off as the Southeast USA sales rep for African Travel, Gametrackers Botswana, and 4th Dimension Tours before helping Volcanoes Safaris relaunch tourism to Rwanda and Uganda in the North American market.

In 2008, Jane re-branded her business as Emerging Destinations, a company that represents cool companies in cool places around the globe. She chose the name because her passion is working with areas where tourism is relatively new and still off the beaten path.

Born in South Carolina and raised in three Southern states, Jane is a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Journalism, and recently earned the Certificate of Hospitality Marketing from Cornell University. Together with husband Chris Behrend, she has raised two children and a foster daughter.

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NACTA version 2 photoAnn Chamberlin, the President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) and is responsible for the overall operations of NACTA. This includes member and supplier sales, revenue management, meetings and events and membership service. Ann leads the overall vision for NACTA, strengthens the company through strategic partnerships and membership growth to ensure NACTA remains the top membership choice for travel consultants. Last July, Chamberlin also added the title of Senior Vice President, Operations for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of ASTA, focusing on membership growth and support, chapter operations, and consortia partnerships. Read the rest of this entry »

BRT Photo JimJim Tedesco a proven leader with strong connections in the travel community, and currently serves as the Vice President of Sales for North America at Back-Roads Touring. He is the winner of two Magellan Awards by Travel Weekly, has twice been named a “Rising Star in Travel” by Vacation Agent Magazine and Agent@Home Magazine, and currently sits on the USTOA Associate Member Advisory Committee. With 10 years of travel industry experience, he has a proven track record of taking ideas from concept to market with successful results and continues to develop positive relationships with travel agents and suppliers across the globe. After 9.5 years of leadership within the Flight Centre Travel Group Retail and Wholesale divisions, he joined London-based Back-Roads Touring in July of 2016 as their Vice President of Sales for North America. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and a Master of Business Administration in Management from St Thomas Aquinas College.

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FOTO BOTTINI 1 (Small)The Regional Director for Aerolíneas Argentinas, Marcelo William Bottini manages all commercial and administrative operations for offices in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

Mr. Bottini began a remarkable twenty-seven year career with VARIG Brazilian Airlines in 1979 working in back-office support and ultimately rising to the level of President and Chief Executive Officer. As CEO, he led VARIG Brazilian Airlines through reorganization to be recognized as the Best Airline by industry peers by successfully restructuring it after it was sold in a public auction. During nine months of intense and brutal negotiations, involving government, creditors, unions, employees, and others, a unanimous decision on the complex Recovery Plan was reached, avoiding the failure of the largest and best known airline in Brazil. Read the rest of this entry »

head shotKallie Biggs is the Travel Agent Market Manager for American Cruise Lines with extensive experience in marketing, sales, and business development over a range of travel and hospitality-focused industries. During her career, she held several onboard positions for a variety of cruise lines and also worked at Europe Express, gaining valuable experience as part of the sales and marketing team. Kallie served as a Contributing Board Member for the Young Travel Professionals of Seattle with the title of Communications and Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Western Washington University, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of Washington.
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Katie Fravel, Founder and CEO of Fravel Travel

KF - Cape Chignecto (1)Born and raised on a dairy farm in Virginia, Katie Fravel always had a sense of adventure, with a love for nature and travel. She began in the travel industry in 2008 working for a ticketing company, followed by a job with a supplier that specialized in the British Isles. At the end of 2013, she embarked on her biggest adventure to date, with the launch of Fravel Travel.

Beginning with just Ireland, Katie would later add Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to her specialties.  These places are known for their gorgeous, natural beauty. They remind her of where she grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, a place where stunning scenery and friendly people are abundant. With Fravel Travel she is able to connect with clients, sharing the places she loves and helping them to plan a memorable getaway. Read the rest of this entry »

Cally Papas, President of Cloud Tours, Inc.


Cally Papas is the President and sole proprietor of Cloud Tours Inc, a tour operator specializing in travel to Europe and the Middle East for over 47 years. Cally’s parents immigrated from Greece to New York City, where she grew up and has lived all her life. She graduated from Queen’s College with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, and from New York University with a Master’s Degree in Teaching English As A Second Language. She never visited Greece until she was a young adult, and once she did her life was never the same! In Greece she fell in love with the country and its people, and discovered a deep passion for travel. Upon returning from her trip, she decided to pursue a career in travel and landed a job at Olympic Airways. Cally began her career with Olympic as a receptionist and ended in the executive position of National Marketing and Sales, the third highest US position in the company. Cloud Tours was one of her accounts, and when the previous owner wanted to retire, Cally seized the opportunity to run her own business and create something new in the world of travel. Read the rest of this entry »

headshotMike Melhem Jr. earned a BA from the University of Michigan before working in the Software Industry for several years. He joined CTS in 2001 and has since then supervised the technological side of the business. He spearheaded the transition of CTS from a single offline GDS to a multi-GDS operation with a major online presence, and continues to bring CTS into the technological future. Read the rest of this entry »

Sharon-Flax-Brutus_0996-Crop-Web[1]Veteran tourism professional Sharon Flax-Brutus is the Director of Tourism for the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, a statutory body serving as the guiding unit for the development, marketing and promotion of the destination’s image, tourism product, and training.

Sharon Flax-Brutus’ confirmation to one of the Government’s top economic pillars is characteristic of her 30 plus years of experience garnered from working in diversified posts within the tourism industry in the British Virgin Islands, the Caribbean region and the United States. 

Sharon has achieved notable accomplishments as the Director of Tourism that have been pivotal in strengthening and developing partnerships within the tourism sector regionally and internationally. Her portfolio includes sustainable and economic development initiatives along with the teaching and implementation of green practices for the accommodations sector; industry training and varied interactive tourism education programmes for youth interested in hospitality, culinary and tourism careers; the BVI became a member country of the International Institute for Peace. Read the rest of this entry »

MarkPicLoResBefore founding National Transaction Corporation, Mark Fravel worked extensively in the data collection and financial technology fields under Harbridge Merchant Services and First Data, both serving as their Vice President. In 1999 Mark left to start his own merchant processing company, National Transaction Corporation, and has continued as its president for over 19 years. National Transaction has always exceeded excellence, often ranking in the top 10 for many prestigious data and technology awards.

Today Mark lives in South Florida where he dedicates his spare time away from NTC to volunteering and advocating for children, the environment, and better quality education. He has been a board member of the Prestige Club, an organization dedicated to helping children in need in the South Florida area, and The Florida Bar Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee for 8 years as a volunteer. Mark is also an avid boatsman, diver, and fisherman in the waters near his South Florida home. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Chmura, President of Grand Slam Tennis Tours

Andrew hdAndrew Chmura created Topnotch Tennis Tours in 2000 before merging with Grand Slam Tennis Tours, initially founded in 1988 by Dave Kenney. In 2004, Grand Slam Tennis Tours merged with Topnotch Tennis Tours, and the entity has recently evolved to share management with a professional tennis agency: Topnotch Management. This merger has given Grand Slam Tennis Tours the ability to craft custom tennis-specific tours unrivaled within the tourism industry.

Andrew Chmura took his experience as a successful collegiate and professional tennis player and applied his insider knowledge to creating unique luxury travel experiences for tennis enthusiasts who were looking for more than just standard tour offerings. Andrew has competed on the satellite circuit, played for the University of Notre Dame, held the No. 1 ranking in New England as a junior, and is a USPTR accredited teaching professional.  Read the rest of this entry »

Michael WhiteheadMichael Whitehead was born in India and attended school all over the world, but not limited to: Hong King, Singapore, Scotland, England, and the United States. This included the same secondary school as the former Prime Minister of Great Britain Tony Blair, although Blair arrived after Michael had already left. Michael began his career in the travel industry in the early 1970’s by joining Cathay Pacific Airways as a trainee manager in the Hong Kong head office. He stayed with Cathay until 2002, and between 2002 to 2008 when he joined the Air Astana team, Michael worked with an all cargo airline based in the USA, Polar Air Cargo.

In 2008 Michael joined Air Astana in Istanbul as Regional General Manager for Turkey, the Middle East, and Africa. In April of 2011 he moved to London, and now his responsibility covers the United Kingdom, Ireland, the USA, and Canada.

Michael is married with three daughters, all now in their thirties, and currently lives in London. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Ryan, CEO of 3BaysOver

Andy Ryan headshotAndy Ryan grew up in Switzerland, and has also lived in the UK, the USA, Australia, and Argentina. He studied Geography at Cambridge University, and completed his Master’s thesis in Sustainable Tourism and Indigenous Communities, subjects in which he maintains a great interest.

Andy began his career as a business analyst at JP Morgan Private Bank in Geneva and New York. He made the decision to leave finance and dedicate himself to tourism while watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean from a Costa Rican beach. Since then, he spends most of his time learning from – and being inspired by – passionate tourism professionals, and seeking ways to help them to succeed. He is known around the company for saying, “I am not detail-oriented, I am perfection-oriented.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ann-PhotoAnn Chamberlin, the President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA), is responsible for the overall operations of NACTA. This includes member and supplier sales, revenue management, meetings and events, and membership service. Ann leads the overall vision for NACTA and strengthens the company through strategic partnerships and membership growth to ensure NACTA remains the top membership choice for travel consultants.

Ann built her career over 12 years at Holland America Line in various sales capacities including Director of Premium Preferred/National Accounts before accepting the position of Vice President of North America Member Sales and Service for Virtuoso, where she worked for nine years including building their first ever field sales team.

Joining NACTA in January 2012 as Vice President, she was promoted to President of the association in the fall of 2013. During her tenure, she and her team raised the membership criteria qualifications, rebranded the association, expanded the supplier portfolio, and strengthened the chapter system through a regionalized structure. Reporting directly to the President and CEO of ASTA, she works collaboratively with the American Society of Travel Agents to ensure the success of both associations. Read the rest of this entry »