Associate Board of Director: Kathryn Fischer
Vice President of Sales, Transportation Charter Services
Please describe your experience as a volunteer within or outside the travel community.
Over my career, I have had countless opportunities to serve and work along side of other industry partners. I have served a two-year term on the American Bus Association Education Committee and also volunteered at many Marketplaces. During my 13 years in Virginia Beach, I was very active with the Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as the Virginia Beach Hotel Association’s Tour &Travel Committee which I served as the Chairperson for four years. The city of Virginia Beach held Familiarization Tours which included an event that I helped create – a Boardwalk Scavenger Hunt. It was always the kick-off activity as it allowed the participants to bond as teammates and learn about the city while doing it. In recent years, as a motorcoach operator, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the International Motorcoach Group (IMG) and have been very active on creating awareness of the Motorcoach Industry. In my time on the SYTA Board, I have been able to participate in the Safety Committee as well as the Task Force to create the Essentials of Student Travel Course. I look forward to increasing my involvement with SYTA and the Motorcoach Industry as time goes on.
Please describe your professional experience in the student travel industry.
My experience with student travel first began over 25 years ago while working as a Director of Sales for a beachfront hotel in Virginia Beach, CA. I worked with Tour Operators, Teachers and Band Directors to coordinate hotel stays, meal arrangements and other needed services. During my time at the hotel, I also developed a Girl Scout Badge program that created opportunities for troops to participate in activities, visit attractions and volunteer to earn badges over a multi-day stay. It was during this time that I started attending the SYTA Annual Conference. Currently the companies I represent work extensively with the Student Travel industry providing transportation service for both outbound and inbound student travel groups. Student travel represents a large percentage of our annual revenue and the student travel industry is a primary focus.
Please describe other professional or personal experience that would benefit you as a Board member.
One of the most positive experiences in my life was working for the Walt Disney World Co. as part of the College program. This experience left a lasting impression on me and has been a major contributor to my mindset when it comes to my work in tourism and specifically the student travel industry. It is amazing how 30 years can go by and the things that I learned from that time are deeply instilled in me. I have also been fortunate to live and work in several different parts of the U.S. and have long standing relationships with many industry colleagues. Having these connections in different regions of North America could help bring in new members and increased awareness of SYTA.
Please describe why you would like to serve as a Board of Director (Associate).
It has been an honor to serve as an At-Large Board Member for the past 1 ½ years. When I joined in September 2019, I was not able to attend the Fall Board Meeting, but was able to participate in the Board meeting at Summit in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, due to the Pandemic there have been no in person meetings and I feel that I have not had the full experience and very much want to continue as a board member. After time listening and observing I feel I have a good understanding of the matters before the board and feel my experience and knowledge could certainly contribute to the board undertakings.
What do you see as the challenges facing the student travel industry? What can SYTA do to meet those challenges?
In my experience, the Student Travel Industry seemed to be strong and stable pre-pandemic. However, the Pandemic seems to have flushed out some issues that as an industry has caught us off guard. I feel the Student Travel Industry is going to face challenges and will have to remodel how business is conducted in the future with a new focus on Health and Safety and the potential liabilities that may result. As well there are going to be challenges with the business aspects of student travel when it comes to deposits, payments, cancellations and general term and conditions. All facets of student travel have been affected and the challenge will be to collaborate in order to find common ground whereby everyone will benefit and not one is left to burden the negative effects the pandemic has caused.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Nominating Committee?
When Urte Land approached me for an At-Large Board position, I was surprised and humbled that she would offer this opportunity. At first, I was hesitant because I worried about the time commitment. I had a busy professional life overseeing the sales efforts for two motorcoach companies and wanted to ensure I could commit the time necessary to fulfill the obligations. Because of my love for SYTA and Urte’s encouragement, I decided it was the right thing to move forward with. During the pandemic, it was a source of support during a time that none of us will ever forget. Gathering with the Board gave me a sense of purpose at a time when we were all a bit lost. I will be forever grateful for that it helped keep me going and work towards a broader goal for our industry. If I am able to continue to serve on the Board, I promise that I will work hard and do whatever I can to assist with SYTA’s continued growth.