The ITMI faculty and staff are here to answer your questions and guide you along your path to becoming a tour professional. The ITMI faculty provide you with experience-based, hands-on, practical applications in both the classroom and in the field. You’ll receive individual mentoring and coaching from leaders who are active tour directors. Learn more about them here.
About the time I was graduating from California Polytechnic University with a degree in Biology, I remember hearing for the first time President John Kennedy speaking “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I decided and was accepted to join the Peace Corps to teach high school Biology in Africa. Unfortunately, at the same time, the army was calling me to Vietnam. I decided to make my own choice and joined the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. During those life changing 13 months I spent in Vietnam I remember saying to myself, whatever I do the rest of my life had better make sense. When I returned home to the United States my search began to fulfill the promise I made to myself. Not knowing exactly what that was, I decided to spend a year exploring 17 countries in Europe on a 10-speed bicycle. This fueled my love of travel, culture, and history…the joy of just moving.
I believe travel is the greatest university in the world. It is a fulfilling yet humbling experience to explore the cultures and history of our planet.
For the next 7 years I would travel the globe as a Tour Director. When I returned to Europe leading tour groups, I met a whole new breed of professionally trained tour directors and guides. They could talk about art, food, wine, music, history, culture…they were like modern day Renaissance people. I found that most countries in Europe had national guide schools that trained people to be the “face of their country.” In America tour escorting was done mostly by college students as a temporary summer job or by a retired person to obtain a free trip. Starting a school for tour directors in America seemed pre-destined to be a goal that I would pursue. I wanted to ensure that tour directing was a recognized, respected profession and more importantly give others an avenue to pursue their passion for travel. So, in 1976, my friend and colleague Bill Newton and I started the first school in America to train tour directors and guides.
I am proud of each one of the graduates that made the choice to follow their dream to teach, learn, and grow into the role of a Professional Tour Director and ultimately be called Ambassadors of Goodwill throughout the world. Even after all this time I still lead a few tours a year, when I am not instructing at ITMI. Tour Directing is still my passion… besides, I’m not going to let my students have all the fun!
Born the youngest of five children, with parents married over 72 years, I can only say that I was blessed with a basic normal childhood in upstate New York. My parents shaped my morals and values while my brothers and sister helped shape my view to the world. The first of my siblings would leave for college by the time I was 3 in the early 60′s. Respect for the environment was instilled in me through my aunt and uncle, considered hermits, known as “The Hermit of Stoney Lonesome.”
Through their eyes and influence I learned about taking care of the environment, humanity, the need for equality, justice, standing up for those that can’t, importance of truth, value of diversity and living life authentically.
With their influence I knew by sixth grade that I wanted to travel, learn cultures, gain understanding of people and their traditions in order to create a better world. Since then I have had the privilege to meet and work with many people in the travel industry for over 30 years. My work has been varied from hotel sales, to operations, as a receptive tour operator, officer on board cruise ships, district cruise sales and as a professional tour director. What I have enjoyed most about the travel industry is that it has allowed me the flexibility to raise a family and do my part in creating a bridge of understanding for the environment while connecting to humanity in ways only travel has the ability to do.
Today, I enjoy my work at ITMI. In this work I am able to be a part of a wonderful transition for people that on the first day come to a school they never thought existed… a place that champions their desire to make a difference in the world. It is a privilege to be a part of creating dreams for individuals to become ambassadors of goodwill for peace as professional tour directors and guides all over the world.
As a Travel & Hospitality Professional for 30 years, I have had the opportunity to wear many hats and learn the intricacies and facets of this industry.
My first foray into travel began with a summer in Europe where, like many of us with the travel bug, I was hopelessly bitten…in Rome. Promising to travel every chance that I had and with every extra dollar I made, I started my career in hospitality during college, working in the special events department. Although I was a horribly uncoordinated member of the banquet staff (I may have spilled more than I actually served), I connected with the heart and joy of this industry.
My first job after college was as a Meeting & Events Planner for Hornblower Cruises & Events, specializing in the Convention & Incentive market. For more than a decade, I worked not only as a meeting planner but also as the Associate Director of Sales, balancing my events along with management of the sales team while fostering a creative & productive environment. Although I loved working with amazing clients and a top notch team, trying to squeeze in the travel that I truly loved and fed my soul, in-between events and sales goals was impossible.
In pursuit to better integrate my travel passion with a career, I sought a way to have a career in travel, which lead me to the International Tour Management Institute. The reputation and integrity of ITMI was well known and highly recommended by many industry leaders. I took the leap, left my meeting planning position, and attended ITMI to become certified as a Tour Guide / Tour Director.
Throughout the years I have worked as a Tour Guide and Tour Director for many wonderful companies, experiencing “once in a lifetime” moments, exploring both exotic and local gems while meeting unforgettable people along the way. Not only did I have the opportunity to travel, but I am able to make a difference in the world. For me, tour guiding is more than just seeing sights…it is opening the eyes of guests, introducing them to new cultures, breaking down stereotypes and watching them wonder at the world all the while sharing my passion for travel with them.
With a focus on balance and my travel cup feeling full, I have the privilege to work with ITMI to help make dreams come true for others. It is my honor to share my experience and knowledge with fellow lovers of travel and those that have been “bitten” as well. I have come full circle in my love for travel and the hospitality industry…isn’t it amazing when a passion and a career come together!
As a fan of puzzles, it’s appropriate for me to compare my journey into tour directing to putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the photo on the box. Being a tour director was something I was destined to be, but I didn’t know it. All of the pieces of my life, my careers, and my skills came together in this profession.
Exploring the world was a natural part of my family and my upbringing. You could say it’s in our blood. From my grandfather’s travels in Europe, courtesy of the US Calvary in WWI, my mother’s high school student abroad experience in the 1930’s, to having my own high school student exchange in South America in the 1970’s, my bones are itching to explore and experience other cultures and countries.
My 32-year career as a teacher, and as a high school and middle school administrator, were ideal platforms to change the lives of hundreds of young people through travel both domestically and abroad. Providing opportunities to broaden their horizons beyond their own backyard and lives, to show them new places and new cultures, and watch each person evolve, was pure joy for me. I became known as the “traveling principal” and our public school developed a waiting list of eager families from outside the attendance area and district. Parents wanted a school experience where what was learned in school was applied out of school in the world.
It was through one of these school trips that I became acquainted with ITMI. Our tour director on our school’s trip to Washington, D.C. was a graduate and introduced me to the next phase of my life. In hindsight, the skills necessary to run a classroom and a school have come in handy and provided the framework for my jigsaw puzzle. The researching, the scheduling of a day, putting together how to present a topic, meeting the unique and diverse needs of 50 people day after day, mastering multi-tasking, learning win/win problem solving, maintaining a calm demeanor when confronted by upset people, and eating lunch in about 5 minutes, are all skills which have come in handy in the travel industry! For me, the jigsaw puzzle pieces are fitting together quite nicely, and I still don’t know what the finished piece will look like!
My time as a student at ITMI was magical. I met people just like me – my tribe! I am so thankful for my ITMI experience. My instructors each brought a new and different perspective to the program. ITMI doesn’t produce a single product. ITMI gives you to skills to develop your own product!
My career as a Tour Director has led me to work for numerous companies for both student and adult audiences, from basic to luxury tours. Like anything new my learning curve was steep! With hard work, a few tears, and a willingness to constantly improve, I became the 2017 Insight Vacation’s North American Tour Director of the Year! To be honored by a company comprised of truly exceptional colleagues, I was, and still am, humbled and honored at this recognition.
It is my pleasure to instruct at ITMI. I am proud of the hundreds of former “students” who are out there doing great work in our field. It gives me great pride when we cross paths “out on the road”. In my own guests, I get the biggest kick out of watching them having a joyous time experiencing a historical, cultural, and/or breathtakingly beautiful scene, and seeing their mouth form the word, “Wow!” It makes me smile from ear to ear!
I hope our paths cross on your journey.
Annette is passionate about travel, particularly to places she loves. She has been in the industry for over 18 years, starting off as a tour director in Italy and France for Collette, and then moving on to work for them as a Product Manager where she planned, contracted, and created itineraries as well as oversaw all operations for the countries she was in charge of.
Her strong connections to Italy, led her to move there from the US, where she spent 11 years exploring every corner, experiencing the culture and history, and sampling all of the delicious foods and wines the country is known for. Annette then became Director of Operations for Cuba Travel Services, where she assisted many US Tour Operators in developing their people-to-people programs to Cuba and managed the operations of all travel-related programs for the company. Annette keeps busy these days overseeing two companies from her home-base in Miami yet still manages to sneak in local guiding and overseas tour directing whenever she can.
Annette is the managing partner of the North America division of Whisper System, a company that provides radio guide systems for guided group tours, and managing partner of Daiquiri Tours, where she organizes travel programs to Cuba, Italy, Costa Rica, France and other parts of Europe. She also helps to develop and oversee the operations of food tours and activities in the Miami area for Savor Our City, a South Florida company that offers food tours and experiences.
it is! But is it incredibly rewarding and fun and challenging in the best way? YES!
Travel is transformative. I truly believe in the power of temporarily leaving your day-to-day reality and seeing that not everybody lives just like you do. And for me, nothing is more fun than a day spent exploring, whether it be a city, museum, or hiking trail. My favorite part of tour directing is sharing that sense of adventure and discovery when my guests ease out of their comfort zones to try something new.
I grew up in Cincinnati, but I have felt comfortable being away from home since I was little. That is because when I was growing up my family spent every summer living in Nottingham, England. In fact, I don’t get home sick; I get “roam sick!” College brought me to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where I majored in theatre and stage managed a number of productions. For six summers during and after college I worked at a summer camp in northern Minnesota, leading girls on backpacking and canoeing trips across the US and Canada. I still love spending time outside, and when I take my own vacations I often can be found backpacking through the mountains.
Tour directing and ITMI combined many of my passions, such as travel, connecting with people, learning, and constant exploring. To date, I have guided tours for adults, families, and students in Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Italy, Australia, South Africa, Greece, Costa Rica, Norway, and more. Now, as an ITMI instructor, I am privileged to pass on knowledge to new tour directors as they embark on their own personal journeys to follow their dreams! Can you get paid to travel? Yes, you can! Is it hard work? Yes, it is! But is it incredibly rewarding and fun and challenging in the best way? YES!
Elise and Tim are a husband and wife team working in the industry for 20 years.
Former Cruise Directors and Shore Excursion Managers for Windstar Cruises, they now lead tours around the world on ships, riverboats and land journeys. In addition to training new colleagues, they consult with Tour Operators offering R&D, Product Enhancement and Documentation services.
I grew up in a small town in Vermont where my parents raised me to ride bikes and go exploring in the woods. The urge to discover my surroundings and see what the world had to offer me catapulted me into sports, music and a love for history.
College to me was an opportunity to see what other states had to offer (even though my love for Vermont is something I express at every passing moment). My parents always told me that even though I loved Vermont, who knew, that maybe I would love other places more. So I went off to Virginia and studied history. I quickly became passionate about what my professors taught me about including different backgrounds and cultures of other countries and states.
I studied abroad which launched my wanderlust gene. While I was in Germany I took every weekend to go see a new town or try a new food. I felt myself falling in love with castles, kabobs and beer. I quickly realized that Germany was the tip of the travel iceberg and quickly moved to Rome for a summer.
After I graduated college I realized I wanted to keep traveling but also needed an income so I moved to Hungary and taught English as a foreign language. I made lifelong friends and found a new family who taught me how to cook, speak Hungarian and made sure I ate plenty of pastries. This is where I discovered that I loved working with young minds. I returned to Vermont and ran a residential group home for children with emotional disabilities. I continued to enjoy working with younger children but missed traveling.
I went to ITMI and launched myself full time into the tour world, taking on any tour that come my way, from local driving tours to multi generational tours even hosting internationally. I found my place in student tours and took as many tours as I could, working with 8th graders from all over the United States, China, and Europe.
My adult tours reminded me how adults turn into big kids when on vacation and started discovering the United States more, running tours in Texas, Florida, New England and National Parks. The world is a beautiful thing, filled with phenomenal people and touring truly brought all my passions together.
I was born in northern New Jersey in a little town called Northvale. New York State line was our northern border and Hudson River was our eastern border. Our town was tucked up in the eastern corner of New Jersey. Being so close to New York City gave me the opportunity to visit the most exciting city in the United States. High school and College visits to Washington Square started my quest for all things different from my suburban life Northvale.
I attended College of Emporia and Emporia State University in Kansas. There I immersed my time in Music Education. By Junior year I realized my passion was teaching not teaching music. From that moment in Kansas I poured my attention to getting a Major in Elementary Education and Minor in Spanish. Feeling the needed to travel and not return to the east coast I settled with my new wife Wendy in the Chicago suburbs. There I spent 34 years teaching K-6 traditional classes, resource learning center, multi-age classes. My final degree was a Masters in Psycho-educational Diagnostics.
I still had that wanderlust in me and was ready to retire. Talking to a friend from the travel industry she said you need to attend ITMI to get the best travel training. So, without missing a beat I went to ITMI right after retiring from teaching. What a great fit. I was a talker and informer. I fit this new kind of job. What I needed was a solid understanding of the Tour Management aspect of the industry. Guess what? I found it at ITMI. I also found a cadre of travel people that were like me.
My travel now has filled my bucket almost to the top. My most wow experience was something only a former music performer would find amazing. Last year during a job with a student marching band there was a “show biz” moment when the marching band director needed a person to march with him to help with any emergency that may come up on parade. Stepping off at the whistle at a Bowl Game Parade was a highlight of my travel career. Right place right time for this former Drum Major.
That moment said I am so grateful for the companies that have hired me to take their clients through the National Parks and Canyons of the west, cross-country NYC to LA., Hawaiian Islands, Australia and New Zealand. Student travel has taken me to every major city in the United States and Canada. Cruising with groups have taken me to the Baltic, Mediterranean, British Isles, Africa, Tahitian island. Pinch me, someone pays me to travel.
In the beginning of my new career it wasn’t easy for me to accept rejection from companies that didn’t want me. Did you hear that “want” me. The word I changed was ‘need‘. At that point in time the companies’ needs did not include me. They still may want you, but not need you at that moment. That changed my whole outlook for looking for a job.
After graduating from college, I received a phone call saying “how would you like to work on the U.S. Space Program and live in Southern California?” This was a dream come true for me! First, I wanted to be an astronaut since I saw “I Dream of Jeannie” as a kid and second, I loved the West. Born and raised in New York, I developed a love of travel in my teens while visiting family out West and down South. During college breaks, my friends and I would spend weeks exploring State and National Parks from Oregon to Mexico and from California to Colorado. Many times our travels coincided with concerts or music festivals (I’m still convinced the Grateful Dead were following ME). By 30 years old, I had been to about half of the 61 National Parks.
During my previous career in Information Technology, I worked in various industries (aerospace, telecommunications, public safety, and manufacturing) and in a variety of positions (systems analysis, network and software engineering, project management (PM)). A lot of the project management skills from my technology career were transferable to working as a tour director. While on my first guided tour (as a guest, before I became a TD), I kept pointing to the TD and saying to my wife, “How do I get THAT job? I manage a multi-million dollar software project, I can manage a bus full of people on vacation!” Of course, I know it’s much more than that, but I feel like my PM experience is being put to good use in my new career.
So, several years ago, I decided that 28 years of sitting in a dark room and talking about software was getting old. I wanted to pursue a career that would get me out of the cubicle and allow me to meet fun and interesting people. This led me directly to ITMI and tour directing. Soon after graduating, I found myself leading a tour from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rushmore, and I’ve never looked back! I’ve been working as a Tour Director in the National Parks as well as leading student tours on the East Coast for several years now and not a day goes by when you won’t hear me say: Best. Job. Ever.
Leading student tours also provides me with a joy I didn’t expect. It’s something that teachers experience and is extremely rewarding – when the student ‘gets it’ and the light bulb goes off on their head – there’s nothing quite like it. I love sharing these wonderful places with students, and seeing them anew through their eyes. I instilled a love of travel in my own children, because I believe that experiencing new places and cultures is the world’s best classroom.
Teaching at ITMI has allowed me to continue this wonderful journey and share my experiences with others who have made the same choice as me – to get out of the cubicle and start doing something you love. There’s really nothing quite like it.
I also love working with ITMI grads, helping them navigate their new careers. It’s a real joy to see their successes.
When I’m not traveling, I’m usually pursuing my other passions: spending time with family, finding the best pizza or going to see my favorite band. That’s me in a nutshell. Family, food, music and travel. I’ll see you down the road….
Growing up in rural Virginia with my pet pig, Wilbur, I never imagined I would one day travel the world for a living. College and graduate school led me to a variety of roles, including travel consultant, teacher, media specialist, production director, and speaker. Then one day a friend asked me to help plan and lead a student tour to New York City. During the trip, a chaperone commented on what a fantastic job I had–as a tour guide. I explained to them that I wasn’t a tour guide… and added that I wasn’t sure that was even a real job! They assured me it was and connected me with their friend, a recent graduate of ITMI. I was intrigued by the concept and soon discovered that ITMI was the real deal. In 2010 I eagerly attended.
I have spent the last ten years working full-time leading adult and student tours across the US and thirty-eight countries. I take a few months off each year to backpack on my own and have visited an additional twenty-eight countries. What can I say? I love to travel.
I believe that travel has the power to transform worldviews and bring people together. There is no greater joy than to witness the moment when travel becomes transformational. As tour directors, we facilitate experiences for people not only to see the world but to walk away changed.
It is a great privilege to be a part of ITMI, investing in the next generation of tour professionals. My passion is utilizing technology to both simplify and enhance our jobs, providing fantastic experiences for our guests. I love helping both the novice and the nerd get up to speed on technology and current innovations in our field.
The education and confidence that ITMI provided for me not only changed my career but changed my life. Like any other career, it has its ups and downs, but I would not trade it for anything!