Associate Board of Director: Tara Hippensteel

Tara Hippensteel

National Sales Manager, Tour & Travel North America, Hard Rock Cafe International

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

My volunteerism lives within the industry, participating in as many give-back programs available, including organization of Hard Rock Cafe events benefitting the industry (Dance Your Meal Off; Tourism Cares and ABA Afterglow). I currently serve on the board of the ABA Foundation, and an Chair of the 2019 Afterglow Committee. Externally, I am active in fundraising for my Alumni Association (Go Green!) and was a founding member of “Spartyball in the WindyCity.” This particular fundraiser, now in its 14th year, has raised over $1M for merit-based scholarships for Chicago area students.

Please describe your professional experience in the student travel industry.

My professional experiences includes both land based and water based attractions. Having exposure to the water-based attractions (Spirit Cruises Chicago) early on in my career was critical to my growth and success, as I see it today. Selling a seasonal attraction with the amount of variables a 650 passenger vessel includes, prepared me for the variety of challenges the industry can surprise you with! My longest tenure, Hard Rock Cafe, has afforded me the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and experience student Travel Industry first hand. There is also a continued Operational and Leadership team education within our organization. Collectively, our goal is to provide memorable experiences that rock and what could possibly better than that?

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

I am currently in my 5th role at Hard Rock Cafe, most of which I have written all my own job descriptions! Having worked through several new openings, managed café Marketing & Philanthropic programs, and sold nearly every market segment, I am a well rounded addition to the Board. I expect contributions to be large as well as new learnings and education, greater.

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

I would be honored to serve as an Associate member on the Board of Directors to better represent the current gap of experience-based Restaurants. I am passionate about the students and their overall travel experiences. If my voice and contribution can better serve the greater good of student travel, then it’s a win. I am big on ideas, collaboration and hard on issues, soft on people.

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

There are several, however, enabling students to travel that do not have the financial resources is a big issue with me. It has affected me personally in my own family and I want to better find a way to get all students traveling. Overall safety is priority, including allergy concerns and criticals. The more we meet & collaborate, the more we help!