Associate Board of Director: Gregory Dotson
Senior Trade Sales Manager – Schools and Groups, Merlin Entertainments
Please describe your experience as a volunteer within or outside the travel community.
I have volunteered countless hours at each conference I have attended over the past 10 years, and have been welcoming new delegates since the beginning. I assisted with the creation of SYTA Boot Camp and was even asked to be a presenter at three conferences. I was a part of the Annual Conference Committee for Los Angeles and Toronto and stepped up to make Orlando the best party ever. I have stayed up late to “Dance MY Meal Off” and have even gotten up early to participate in the “Run, Walk & Slumber”. And, in 2012 I earned the Certified Student Travel Planner designation and joined an elite group that has taken the initiative to raise awareness of student travel as a unique business segment.
After hosting the 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, I have been on an amazing journey with the SYTA team. At the conclusion of the conference I was asked to be the Vice Chair of the 2017 Annual Conference in Albuquerque, NM, which would lead to being the Chair of the 2018 Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD. It is difficult to describe the joy that I felt to assume these positions and to take an even greater role in this tremendous organization. I had the opportunity to participate in meetings and calls throughout the year with amazing volunteers who have devoted countless hours to SYTA. We all worked alongside the amazing SYTA staff and contributed to the planning and execution of the conferences. And, I believe we were all surprised by the number of SYTA members who traveled west to experience Albuquerque on land and in the air. Last year, we saw one of the largest conferences in history as attendees came to experience the incredible hospitality and the beautiful sites of this Baltimore. We hosted our first Safety Summit, offered nightly events, and doubled the amount of volunteers that would serve throughout the conference. It was a tremendous honor to serve in this capacity and during this time I literally gave all I could give. At the completion of my year as Chair, I was not ready to step away. I continue to serve on the Annual Conference Hospitality Committee and The SYF Programming Committee. I was able to attend my very first SYTA Summit in Colorado Springs and I cannot wait to head to Puerto Rico in 2020. And, now I am ready to jump in head first and submit my name as a candidate for the SYTA Board of Directors.
Please describe your professional experience in the student travel industry.
My entire professional life has been spent in the tour & travel industry. I quickly worked my way up at a hotel before moving to Orlando and starting my performing career with Walt Disney Entertainment. I spent 18 amazing years at Disney, working in roles from performer to Production Stage Manager, performing in parades and shows and managing more than 500 cast members in signature events. I was able to travel to destinations around North America spreading the Magic of Disney. My next chapter brought me to SYTA through Kaleidoscope Adventures. I planned and executed student trips to various destinations, while also managing the growing social media marketing efforts. I traveled as a tour director and took in everything I could in each destination I was able to visit. When Merlin Entertainments opened its first attractions in Orlando in 2015, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to join the team. I daily welcome groups to our attractions as the Schools and Groups Manager and look for ways to enhance their experience through travel. Through my current role I am able to be active in SYTA and other travel organizations and have found tremendous value in volunteering for leadership roles. I have been able to maintain my relationships with fellow tour operators and have continued to build upon my relationships with DMO/CVB’s, Attractions, Restaurants, Hotels and every member that makes up our industry.
Please describe other professional or personal experience that would benefit you as a Board member.
Over the past 10 years I have been preparing myself for just this opportunity. In addition to volunteering much of my time with SYTA, I am also currently serving on the ABA Marketplace Advisory Committee and on the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools Board of Directors. My role at Merlin Entertainments affords me the opportunity to be involved in these amazing organizations and to give back through my time and gifts. I have taken on greater responsibility with Merlin Entertainments as the Regional Schools and Groups Manager. I now manage a team at multiple attractions as well as work closely with tour & travel partners around the world. I have learned to listen to members who are looking to benefit from their involvement while striving to make improvements along the way. I look for ways to encourage members to find ways to get involved and to find the benefits of volunteering. I love to spend time at Registration welcoming each delegate to conference and I am happy to Mentor others and share some best practices that I have found along the way. My experience as both an Active and Associate member of SYTA will be beneficial as we are planning for the future and looking for ways to appeal to all members. And, my participation in other associations can be beneficial as our organization continues to grow.
Please describe why you would like to serve as a Board of Director (Associate).
My SYTA Story is far from conventional though I can say with certainty that each and every opportunity has prepared me for this time. I bring experience as a Tour Operator and as a Supplier that can help me more effectively be a leader of this organization. I have cheered on my peers as they have stepped up and have been elected to serve. And, most importantly I have tremendous support from my family, my team at Merlin Entertainments and the countless friends I have found through my involvement with SYTA. I humbly ask for your consideration as I present my name for nomination for the SYTA Board of Directors. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I look forward to the next chapter of My SYTA Story!
What do you see as the challenges facing the student travel industry? What can SYTA do to meet those challenges?
Our industry is growing, which can be seen as both good and bad. We continue to look for ways to appeal to a broader audience and to welcome new members. There are challenges that our members face daily as we consider the safety of students traveling around the world. SYTA. Our organization is leading the way through research and understanding. We have acknowledged that there are concerns and we are actively seeking ways to support our members. We recognize that our industry is changing and that we must continue to find ways to appeal to members that are young and old. Yet, through all of the challenges SYTA is still encouraging our youth to see the world through travel. The foundation is able to provide scholarships for those that might not otherwise have the opportunity to see the world. SYTA is the leader in student travel and has etched its place in the tour & travel industry.