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Brand USA’s Thompson to Receive NTA Pioneer Award

December 4, 2014

Christopher L. Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, will receive the Pioneer Award from the National Tour Association Jan. 22 at the association’s 2015 convention, Travel Exchange, in New Orleans. Also being honored by NTA are Suzanne Slavitter, CTP, and Steve Richer, CTP, each of whom will receive the Bob Everidge Lifetime Achievement Award.

Established by NTA in 2005, the Pioneer Award recognizes an individual whose accomplishments produced a significant change in the travel industry from which NTA and its members have benefited. Thompson’s leadership fits the bill, according to NTA President Pam Inman.

“Under Chris’ guidance, Brand USA has elevated the United States as a travel destination-rapidly and remarkably,” Inman said. “We’re seeing a dramatic increase in international visitors as a result of Brand USA’s extensive marketing and expanded international presence. And he’s brought in more private contributions to pay for it.”

In the two years Thompson has led Brand USA, contributions to the public-private organization have increased from $60 million in 2012 to more than $130 million in 2013 and 2014, and the number of international offices has risen from four to 12. In 2013, Brand USA’s marketing efforts generated 1.1 million international visitors over the growth that would have occurred without Brand USA’s initiatives.

Slavitter and Richer’s award recognizes longtime professional and personal contributions. Established in 2003, the Bob Everidge Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the late NTA volunteer leader and 1996 president, honors individuals whose active dedication to the mission of NTA covers a span of at least 20 years.

Slavitter has advanced the packaged-travel industry in both sports and special-event tours as co-owner of Lakewood, Calif.-based Sports Empire Inc. and Red Hot Celebrations. She has presented on niche marketing at a number of travel industry events and written articles for several publications. Slavitter also has a history of leadership within NTA, having chaired the association’s 2006 convention, the 2012 Contact host committee and the 2014 Travel Agent Task Force, which introduced travel agents to NTA’s signature event, Travel Exchange.

Richer, too, has served NTA and the industry in a variety of ways. An award-winning tourism director, Richer held the top post with the Nevada Commission on Tourism, the Greater Atlantic City CVB and the Mississippi Gulf Coast CVB. He hosted either an NTA convention or meeting at each of those destinations and had three stints on the NTA Board of Directors. From 2007 to 2014, Richer was NTA’s public affairs advocate, based in Washington, D.C.

“Both Suzanne and Steve have made enormous contributions to NTA, each in unique arenas,” Inman said. “What they have in common, though, is they are deeply appreciated by NTA members and staff for their sustained support and their willingness to lead.”

NTA will honor Thompson, Slavitter and Richer during a Jan. 22 luncheon at Travel Exchange. Also during the program, the association will present its Volunteer of the Year award and introduce the 2015 Board of Directors. For information about the Jan. 18–22 event, visit

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