ITMI Symposium 2014: Nashville

A year ago I embarked on my career as a Tour Director and my first step on this journey was a two-week course given by the International Tour Management Institute. I have already written about my experience here in this blog, but in January I attended my first ITMI Symposium. This is an annual gathering for leading tour operators and tour directors. ITMI promotes the event by saying that it “includes interactive seminars and educational programs that provide forward-thinking content about industry trends and mission critical technology.” Access to this symposium was one of the main reasons why I chose ITMI over other tour director training courses; the ability to network is essential in the travel and tourism industry.

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One of the largest draws of the ITMI Symposium is the ability to participate in marketplace. Marketplace gives attendees the opportunity to interview with multiple tour operators who are looking to hire new tour directors. Since I was recently hired by one of these tour operators I did not participate in the marketplace. This being said, I believe the marketplace is a huge draw for this symposium and I know many people who have successfully found employment through it. Besides the marketplace, the symposium provided attendees with many interesting and informative sessions centered around tour directing and life on the road. Our keynote speaker was none other than Rick Steves! Overall, I found the sessions to be valuable to someone, like myself, who it just starting out in this field.

When I was considering whether to attend Symposium this year I ultimately made the decision to go based on the fact that I wanted to continue my relationship with this institution and my classmates, as well as wanting to make new connections with other like-minded people. Truthfully, I have found it hard to maintain or initiate relationships with people who do not understand the traveler lifestyle. This job keeps me away from home for long periods of time, and people often only see the pretty pictures I post; they do not understand all of the hard work that tour directors put into making their tours both educational and enjoyable for their guests. This job is also about being a life-long learner and explorer, but I’m not on one long holiday, I work hard at a career I am passionate about. It just also happens to take me to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Being in Nashville was a pleasant reminder that there are other people out there who share my same passions…

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I was also excited about the fact that Symposium was held in Nashville. This was my first trip to ‘music city’ and I was not disappointed by the city’s hospitality or sights. If you attend Symposium you are also invited to participate in the half or full-day familiarization tours. I took the full-day Nashville city tour which included visits to the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum, Studio B, and lunch at the Wild Horse Saloon. My favorite stop on this tour was Studio B, where we had a fabulous guide who incorporated recorded music into her explanation of the building’s history. I’m not a music aficionado, especially when it comes to country music, but our guide really made the importance of the people who recorded here come to life for me.

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Our hotel, and host of the Symposium, was the Renaissance Nashville. This was a phenomenal venue where I had a large, recently renovated room and the staff’s service was exemplary. Its location was only a short walk to Broadway, also known as ‘the strip’, where neon lights invite you to dine or drink while listening to all varieties of live music. I think this is one of the aspects of Nashville I enjoyed the most, the live music everywhere! The southern food was definitely a close second. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much extra time to explore the other many charms of Nashville (not to mention the fact that temperatures reached below freezing that week), but it is certainly someplace I hope to return to one day.

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Overall, I was very impressed by the ITMI Nashville Symposium experience. It gave me the opportunity to visit a new city, expand my knowledge of the tour directing industry, and most importantly, an opportunity to spend time with fellow tour directors. It was incredibly motivating to be around so many like-minded people and I look forward to attending many future Symposiums.