2021 NTA Board of Directors Election
The NTA Nominating Committee would like to announce the 2021 slate of candidates for the NTA Board of Directors. After vetting the applications, conducting interviews with each applicant, and considering the applicants’ qualifications and business type, the committee composed the following slate:
Tour Operator Directors
Vice Chair: Debra Asberry
Debra Asberry, Women Traveling Together
Debra Asberry has spent the past 23 years immersed in the solo female travel market. A self-taught marketer and database applications programmer, Asberry used these skills and her business acumen to guide her company – Women Traveling Together® (WTT) – from an idea to a multi-million-dollar operation and the largest women-only tour provider in North America.
Her formal education includes a Bachelor of Science degree (Mathematics & Physics) from Clemson University and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Loyola College.
As a member of the NTA Board for the past three years, including serving as Secretary in 2020, Debra has contributed substantively to the objectives of NTA.
Outside of work Debra Asberry is regularly invited to speak about women-only travel, solo group travel and solo-friendly travel. She is a competitive swimmer from childhood and still takes her swimming seriously.
Secretary: Jerry Varner, CTP
Jerry Varner, CTP, Making Memories Tours
Jerry Varner is the owner of Making Memories Tours (MMT) in Missouri. After starting out his career in the farming industry, over 20 years in the poultry and dairy business, a quirky turn of fate and a last-minute choice caused him to jump on a motorcoach tour of Utah. This life-changing trip changed the course of his career. Two months later, he sold his cows, leased out his poultry houses, and started Making Memories Tours. Five months later, he was on a coach with a group of folks headed to San Antonio, TX. Eleven years later, he hasn’t looked back. The MMT family provides domestic and international group travel opportunities to people as well as Outbound Receptive Services for group leaders around the country. He and wife Angie still live on the same farm—now populated by a herd of beef cattle—and in their free time, they dream about their next adventure.
Tour Operator Director (three- year term) – Marcela Laukova, CTP
Marcela Laukova, CTP, Discover Slovakia Tours
Marcela Laukova, CTP is the owner and managing director of DiscoverSlovakiaTours & ExploreEasternEurope company, offering all sorts of tailor-made cultural, educational, special interest tours to Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria & Hungary. In the past 5 years, product development and operations have started also in Balkan countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia. Marcela´s specialty is the agricultural technical tours, food tours as well as choir&marching bands tours.
Marcela has studied at the University of Economy in Bratislava and Vienna, she is a fully licensed guide and has received her CTP certifications in 2011 as the first European ever. She speaks fluent Slovak, German, English, and Russian.
Marcela has 22 years of experience in the travel business, of which 13 years in inbound, she has a great experience with all sorts of leisure and incentive programs. Marcela works closely with clients in order to offer the best possible experience and travel value, she is very attentive to details.
Marcela regularly participates in international tourism events and fairs as IBTM Barcelona, WTM London, Matka Helsinki, ITB Berlin, IMEX Frankfurt, TravelMatch Oslo, and others.
Marcela, her husband Attila, and children Alexandra (20y) and Alexej (11y) live with their dog Albus and 2 cats in Central Slovakia. For leisure, Marcela enjoys walking in beautiful Slovak nature, loves visiting historical cities in Central Europe, enjoys opera, theatre and books.
Tour Operator Director (three-year term) – Michelle Pino
Michelle Pino, Northeast Unlimited Tours
Michelle Pino is the Co-Founder, Co-Owner, and Vice President of Northeast Unlimited Tours, Inc. based in Sandwich, MA (Cape Cod).
With 35 years’ experience in the tourism industry, Michelle’s expertise in sales, marketing, and product development enable her to successfully cultivate strong long-lasting client relationships by providing creative, unique, and memorable tour packages along with unparalleled customer service. Her entrepreneurial drive and leadership have helped guide Northeast Unlimited Tours to become one of the Northeast’s leading Receptive Tour Operators.
Michelle resides in Sandwich with her son Tyler, an aspiring golfer. She enjoys time with family & friends, the ocean, and traveling.
Tour Operator Director (three-year term) – Nish Patel
Nish Patel, Mayflower Cruises and Tours
Nish Patel is the President of Mayflower Cruises and Tours, a division of the Scenic Group.
Mayflower is a leading tour operator that packages tours for the mature market with destinations throughout the world. With the recent acquisition by Scenic Group, Mayflower has now access to 24 different River cruises and Ocean cruises.
Nish has been in the travel industry since 1987 working at various companies in multiple capacities. He has been with Mayflower since 2000.
Tour Operator Director (three-year term) Nominated from the Floor – Michael Mishko
Michael Mishko, Creative Tours Florida
Michael has been in the Travel Industry for more than 36 years. He began his career in the United Kingdom, before eventually moving to the United States in May 2001. Michael purchased his Orlando-based tour company from long-time NTA members and began operating the business. Today, Michael still guides tours on some of his U.S., UK, and Australian tours. As a veteran NTA member, he has attended many industry trade shows and enjoys supporting his fellow NTA members.
Tour Supplier Directors
Tour Supplier Director (three -year term) – Ryan Robutka
Ryan Robutka, VIA Rail Canada
Ryan Robutka is the Senior Manager for Sales & Market Development for VIA Rail Canada with a focus on growth from Canada and the markets of the Americas. VIA Rail is Canada’s national passenger railway providing inter-city travel with short and long-distance trains across Canada.
Ryan studied business management and tourism before starting in the industry as a travel agent in 2000. From there, his 20 years journey in the tourism industry has seen him take on various roles including hotel sales with Starwood and Marriott, destination management at Tourism Vancouver, and for the past nine years with VIA Rail specifically focusing on the travel trade segment. In addition to his various travel roles, he’s spent time on the boards of Team Canada and the Pacific Rim Cruise Association.
In his spare time, Ryan enjoys tennis and hockey, hanging out with his dog in Stanley Park from his home in Vancouver, BC, and of course, traveling the world!
Tour Supplier Director (two- year term) – Tom White
Tom White, U.S. Space and Rocket Center
DMO director (three-year term) – Linda Horowitz
Linda Horowitz, Visit Fairfax
Linda is responsible for domestic and international group leisure travel for Fairfax County, Virginia. She has worked in the travel industry for over 10 years and is a true believer in the transformative power of travel – be it the tangible economic benefits to host communities, the friendships forged, or the strengthening and celebration of diverse cultures. Her previous roles include the Tourism Services Manager at Destination DC, Adjunct Professor in Georgetown University’s Global Hospitality Leadership Program, and Industry Relations at the US Travel Association. Prior to this, she worked in a variety of hospitality establishments throughout her native Kenya and was fortunate to enjoy the occasional safari as part of the job.
Linda holds a Master of Tourism degree from George Washington University and a BSc in Hotel and Tourism Administration from California State University, East Bay. When not showcasing Fairfax County to travel trade, you can find her dedicatedly pursuing her passions—traveling, sampling local cuisine, enjoying the outdoors, or engrossed in a book.
DMO director (one-year term) – Kelly Dean
Kelly Dean, Ottawa Tourism
Tour operators will vote for three operator candidates and officers, tour suppliers for two supplier candidates, and DMOs for two DMO candidates. To learn more about the candidates, view their profiles on NTAonline.com. If you’re interested in nominating someone from the floor, please contact Jennifer Royse.
Each member company/organization in good standing may cast only one ballot, and more than one ballot cast will result in the elimination of all votes submitted by one member company/organization. Ballots were distributed by e-mail to the primary contacts to all tour operators, tour suppliers, and DMOs Oct. 5. If you need a paper ballot, email Jennifer Royse or call her at +1.859.264.6576. Online voting closes Nov. 6 following a virtual Annual Business Meeting on Nov. 5 where you’ll hear an update from NTA leaders and meet the nominees. After voting closes, the results will be tallied, and the 2021 NTA Board will be announced during vTREX.
- NTA has provided us the research and atmosphere to brainstorm new ways of doing things and fresh additions to trips, which has led to successful business development. Rachel Ranck, WorldStrides, NTA member since 1985
- What NTA does is provide the right buyers. They provide the right people who make decisions. This is what makes this organization one I can’t afford to take off my list. John Stachnik CTP, Mayflower Tours, NTA member since 1979
- I came to NTA to build a business, and that’s exactly what it did for us, as sales came in. For me, it’s the only outlet for new ideas. Matthew Squire, Select Travel Service (UK), NTA member since 2002
- NTA membership and our attendance at the convention have provided us with more clients, more business relationships and more ideas. We are proud to belong to NTA. Daniele Panzarin, Target Travel (Italy), NTA member since 2007
- The No. 1 member benefit of NTA has to be all the great professional and personal connections we’ve made over the past decade. Taunya Wolfe Finn, CTP, Wolfe Adventures & Tours, NTA member since 2005
- We have not found a more reliable, more profitable or more consistent tourism venue in which to acquire new business than NTA. Diane Hohnstein, Hospitality Management Services, NTA member since 1999
- I believe attending the NTA conferences allow me to create valuable relationships and work together with U.S. operators in creating great Scotland product. Maggie Anderson, VisitScotland, NTA member since 2003
- NTA events provide us with beneficial networking with many top tour operators. It’s national and international in scope providing a global perspective. Tim and Elaine Moulder, Brilliant Edventures, NTA member since 2015