Associate Board of Director: Pete Smith

Pete Smith

Director of Sales, Smoky Mountain Resorts/Tour Tennessee

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Please describe your experience as a volunteer within or outside the travel community.

I have very much enjoyed being a Sunday School teacher for 15 years, and a Scoutmaster for 3 years.  I have worked in a leadership role in a recovery program called Celebrate Recovery for 7 years.  I have found a calling for prison ministry and have visited medium and minimum prisons with a men’s ministry called Kairos.  I have been a volunteer for the American Bus Association on the ABA Foundation since 2019.

Please describe your professional experience in the student travel industry.

Over a 25 year career in a largely family destination, I have been honored to host over 19,000 groups.  Our Spring business in Pigeon Forge is primarily students.  That means we ready ourselves for performance opportunities, procuring risers, shells, stages, music stands, Marley flooring, tumbling mats, workshops, setting up curriculum, and much more. On the theater side I have been in charge of dance competitions, national park tours, concerts, and educational seminars.  Not to say that there isn’t always something new to learn about student travel.

Please describe other professional or personal experience that would benefit you as a Board member.

As a father, I have enjoyed my children in dance, choir, scouts, baseball, and football.  I have seen the parents’ side of traveling students and the heartburn of not having them nearby.  I also am the son of a School Nurse and a teacher.  I know the pains of dealing with demanding parents and discipline.  As a Scoutmaster I have been trained to take scouts camping for a week at a time.

Please describe why you would like to serve as a Board of Director (Associate).

I see the student travel market poised to explode in the coming years. The pandemic has decimated several businesses.  I have witnessed individuals return to travel in earnest.  Then we saw senior group travel return quicker than student travel mostly because of regulation and fear of liability.  I think I can give some insight to how operators, parents, hoteliers, restaurants, and attractions interact in a very demanding environment.  I would selfishly like to know more colleagues and businesses to be able to accommodate them better.  I’d like to help kids learn.

What do you see as the challenges facing the student travel industry? What can SYTA do to meet those challenges?

Again, regulation is necessary but can be overbearing and a little like killing a fly with a sledgehammer.  I think SYTA can act as voice of reason to those making the rules.  I think SYTA can offer some relief to worried school principals, directors and teachers.

What initiatives are you passionate about that you would like to see further implemented in our industry?

Standardization is needed in student travel.  As a receptive we have seen the gambit of rooming lists, deposit policies, codes of conduct, mask requirements.  It is mind numbing not only for schools and youth programs but also the vendors and operators.  SYTA could adopt some standards and practices to eliminate some of the confusion. Obviously not ever business or school operates the same but we should also not throw up our hands as if to say ” what are you gonna do.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Nominating Committee?

I love my God, my family, and my country.  I love kids and I love the travel industry.