Associate Board of Director: Tara Hippensteel

Tara Hippensteel

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

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

Hard Rock Cafe International provides many volunteer opportunities within our Ambassador Program. I have worked multiple food kitchens, cleaned up Lake Michigan waterfront and organized charity based events raising money, winter coats and canned food for local organizations. The Ambassador group is run by Hard Rock Cafe employees who collectively want to give back. Additionally, I recently started working with Chicago Cares and visiting a Rehabilitation Center with my dog, Fozzie. He puts a smile on so many of the residents faces, sparking memories of pets and loved ones from their past. It is pure joy and he loves all the belly rubs! Professionally, it is important that the organization continues to support the industry with the fundraising events from auctions to parties. “Take Time to be Kind”, “All is One”, “Save the Planet” continue to be a few of the Hard Rock Cafe mottos that we live by daily. We often sat, philanthropy is part of a Hard Rockers DNA and I believe! There is so much good to be seen within the organization and plenty of opportunities to give back outside the four walls, too!

Please describe your professional experience in the student travel industry.

I have been involved for 19+ years in student travel industry. My early experience was with harbor dining cruise ships, where a majority of our business was student & youth. This was my first exposure to SYTA and other professional organizations supporting the travel trade. I recall being on point for the “Chicago Youth Day Out” where we had students experiencing all things Chicago, including a lunch cruise on Lake Michigan. For some students, having lived in Chicago their entire lives, they has never seen the city from the lake. I will never forget the look of amazement in their eyes. My current role of National Director, Tour & Travel, is widely focused on our student travelers. Developing specialized youth-friendly menus while providing a safe, relaxed environment where they can sing, stand, dance and eat is priority.

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

I believe my participation in numerous trade and professional associations throughout the years is beneficial for filling the current Associate role. I was appointed to the Board of Directors for Meeting Planners International (MPI-CAC) while working the Chicago marketing solely. I was very involved in the Marketing Committee at that time, too. Since then, I have been involved in the following: Chicago Spartans Alumni Association; Nomination Committee for National Tour Association; Meetings Advisory Committee for American Bus Association; and multi-year contributor to the Experience Network powered by US Travel Association. Currently, I serve on the American Bus Association Foundation Board and am the Member-at-Large on the 2018-2019 SYTA Board of Directors.

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

This past year serving as Member-at-Large on the SYTA board has been highly rewarding. Learning, listening and participating alongside the talented and passionate industry leaders currently serving has been a true honor. I believe this year has been instrumental in my professional growth and overall understanding of the SYTA missions and goals. I have many more years to give and want to continue to serve and work hard for the organization.

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

Keeping students traveling regardless of educational and financial privilege is priority. All students deserve equal education and opportunity. The opportunity to see their own city from a Great Lake, see the monuments and hear the stories of our funding fathers, and experience arts, theater and an evening dinner reservation with peers. I am proud of SYTA & SYF as we continue to provide opportunities equally and equitably to our youth.