Active Board of Director: Courtenay Betts
Associate Director of Operations, EF Explore America
Please describe your experience as a volunteer within or outside the travel community.
As you know, I am currently sitting on the Board of Directors in a 2-year at-large position. I have been taking great pride in helping see the organization and its membership through the pandemic. Prior to joining the board, I volunteered to plan and coordinate the 2020 SYF trip to New York City. That experience was a lot of fun and it was great to work in tandem with SYTA staff and NYC & Co. At the start of the Pandemic, I joined the safety committee to help ensure that we were supporting the membership as best we could during such a confusing and scary time. In 2016, I volunteered at the Paralympics in Brazil on the media team. In that role, I was responsible for helping coordinate interviews between international press agents and the athletes at the Track & Field events. In the past, I volunteered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada where I developed and led music and drama programming, the Special Olympics, and Relay for Life events.
Please describe your professional experience in the student travel industry.
My entire 15+ -year tourism career has been solely focused on Student Travel. In 2006 I entered the industry as a Tour Guide for a Canadian company called Keating Educational Tours as a Tour Guide leading trips throughout Canada and the US. In 2011 I was hired by EF Tours Canada, a Canadian division of EF Education First, to take on a role on their Canadian Operations team. Since then I have remained with EF Education First but have transitioned through a few roles, products, and offices. When I was a Tour Guide, I worked with both middle and high school-aged groups leading them through excursions across North America which gave me a great understanding of their needs, desires, and educators’ curriculum objectives. Since then, at EF I have held a few different roles, but all have been centered around ensuring a positive tour experience. I have held roles that have touched almost all aspects of the tour experience; operations, product development, sales, safety, and now focusing on Partnerships and vendor strategies.
Please describe other professional or personal experience that would benefit you as a Board member.
In our industry there tends to be a lot of turnovers which causes teams and companies to start from scratch repeatedly because they consistently lose context. I have been lucky enough to be with the same company for 11 years and during my time with EF, as mentioned, I have had the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the business. I believe that my internal opportunities have provided me with more knowledge than someone else who has been in the sales role for 11 years. Because of my well-rounded experience in the student industry, I feel that I have increased understanding and empathy toward both active and associate members. While I live and work in the US, I am Canadian and have great pride in my home country. I know the tourism industry in Canada as well and when required will be able to be a support for that sector of the membership. Starting my career as a Tour Guide allowed me to hone essential skills that would position me well for the tasks of sitting on the board, such as being flexible and adaptable, believing that nothing is impossible, thinking quickly and how to work through a crisis, as well as how to collaborate with all sorts of different personalities and ideas. I am a good listener and a confident decision-maker.
Please describe why you would like to serve as a Board of Director (Active).
I have really enjoyed my time as an at-large member but I think that a 2-year term is just too short to truly make an impact. I want to continue the work we have been doing and continue to support the membership, SYTA staff, and fellow board members.
What do you see as the challenges facing the student travel industry? What can SYTA do to meet those challenges?
It’s no secret that travel is not friendly to the environment and generally negatively affects the planet. Each generation becomes more focused on finding ways to cut down on their carbon footprint and I believe that these next generations of middle and high school students are going to start to hold companies accountable for their sustainability practices and policies. We need to start thinking forward about how we can make changes to keep up with the concerns of these students.
What initiatives are you passionate about that you would like to see further implemented in our industry?
As mentioned above, I am passionate about sustainability. Currently, I am leading a task force centered around how to bring sustainability into the SYTA community in a way that members will understand and embrace. This is not a project that happens overnight, and our work so far has been limited but we have great plans for the future. I would love to continue to be able to lead this charge and help build out the task force into a true committee in the future.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Nominating Committee?
I am dedicated to this industry and would truly appreciate the opportunity to continue with the board and help STYA evolve into the future.