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SYTA Welcomes the 2022-2023 SYTA Board of Directors Slate of Candidates

June 28, 2022

The SYTA Nominating Committee presents the following candidates for the 2022-2023 SYTA Vice President and SYTA Board of Directors. Voting opens Monday, August 15th and closes Saturday, August 27th, at 6pm Eastern Time.

Votes are conducted electronically through Survey Monkey. A link to vote will be sent to the primary contact of each Active and Associate Member organization. Members can only vote for candidates within their respective categories. All member companies in good standing are eligible to vote. If you do not know whom the primary contact is or believe it may have changed, please contact Becky Armely at [email protected] or 703-610-9028.

Election results will be announced on Monday, August 29th at the 2022 Annual Conference.

Click here to read the 2022 SYTA Election Procedures


Vice President Candidate (1 open position)

Alex Urdaneta
President & CEO, Viajes A Plus, Inc.
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Learn more.


Active Candidates (2 open positions)

Courtenay Betts
Associate Director of Operations, EF Explore America
Cambridge, MA

When I was first sent to represent EF at a SYTA conference, I found it inspiring to see SYTA’s list of accomplishments and learn that the organization acknowledges that there is still room to grow. Since then, I have ingrained myself in the organization in several ways: participating in conference, attending SYTA socials, joining committees, and volunteering as a member-at-large on the board of directors for the past 2 years.  Given the opportunity to continue my work on the Board of Directors, I would bring 16 years of personal experience and the support of my company, EF, which has dedicated the last 50+ years to innovating educational travel. I would continue to serve with an inclusive approach focused on assisting both the business and personal goals of all members. The best way for this industry to gain strength is through mutual support in our collective mission to enrich students’ lives through educational experiences.

Learn more.
Watch candidate video.

Gaurav Namit
Vice President, Four Winds Tour & Travel
Jericho, NY

My first memory of working is sealing envelopes in my parents living room to mail out flyers to schools. Much like many of us, this is a family passion that my mother started. For the last 7 years, I have worked with, but mostly learned from Mom as we continued to follow through on our mission of making these kids dream a reality. To continue to push the belief that travel is the best form of education. After the last two years of navigating the pandemic and now following the fastest and rockiest recovery any industry has seen, I continue to think of SYTA as an invaluable resource for all of us to reach out and help each other as we kick of the dust and restart what I think we all believe to be

one of the most important parts of the travel industry.

Learn more.
Watch candidate video.

Justin Shuler
President, Group Travel Network
Gotha, FL

Justin Shuler has spent nearly 3 decades in the student travel industry, including stints on the supplier side as well as 25 years as a tour operator. His commitment to the industry is a lifelong passion born from generational influence. Starting his own travel company, Group Travel Network, in 2004, Justin was determined to create a company with positive impact for not only the students he served, but the youth travel community as a whole. During his tenure in the industry, he has bear witness to the ups and downs of economic impact, social causes and pandemic crisis. As a proud member of SYTA, he has continuously pledged time to volunteer positions, committees, and causes championing student travel and its forward growth. Justin has chaired committees to raise funds for the SYTA Youth Foundation and he served on the Board of Directors from 2017-2020, serving in the role of SYTA President in 2019 (a year of unparalleled transition). Emerging from crisis, his commitment to the industry was reflected in the creation of the first in-person industry event (reTREAT) following the pandemic which encouraged partners and competitors alike, to come together and share. Justin continues to lead Group Travel Network into a new chapter of successful travel and remains a staunch advocate for the industry he loves.

Learn more.
Watch candidate video.

Associate Candidates (2 open positions)

Brent Imrie
CEO/Director, Tour Time NZ Ltd.
Orewa, Auckland, New Zealand

When Dad threw me the keys to a tour coach and told me to go learn the family business from the ground up, it was the start of a life-long passion. I ceased being a commercial pilot to become first a coach driver, tour manager, product & itinerary planner, sales manager and now the CEO.  I have watched our company diversify and grow in strength, driven the creation of the Student Travel Collective in New Zealand, and more importantly I became the father to four incredible children.  So now, more than ever, I want to be a part of the solution in rebuilding confidence in the Youth Travel Market through financial stability, sustainability and inclusiveness. I aim to do so whilst encouraging connectiveness and ensuring that the global classroom remains accessible to our youth. I look forward to using my passion for innovation to bring a fresh perspective to the SYTA Board.

Learn more.
Watch candidate video.

Pete Smith
Director of Sales, Smoky Mountain Resorts/Tour Tennessee
Pigeon Forge, TN

I’m so thrilled to be part of SYTA and so proud to have been nominated.  This wonderful organization combines two of my loves: tour and travel and serving kids.  As the father of a 19 year old boy, Harrison and 15 year old girl, Ella, I have been to more scouting adventures, football games, dance recitals, and choir performances than I can count.  Sometimes as a coach, sometimes as a scoutmaster and all the time the proudest parent in the room. With 12 teachers in my family and 2 principals, I have witnessed the challenges of student travel in a changing environment.  During the pandemic, our local attractions and hotels banded together and created Tour Smokies, a marketing co-op simplifying the booking process for operators.  That group inspired Tour Tennessee, a back end resource helping understaffed operators stay in business.  Student business in the Smoky Mountains has already exceeded our pre pandemic numbers and we are gearing up for more growth.  Since joining the tourism industry in 1997, I have learned what many others have come to know:  Tourism gets in your blood.  I want to help my fellow tourism partners.  Thank you for the nomination, I hope I get to help you all.

Learn more.
Watch candidate video.

Keith Stiff
Senior Manager, Youth Group Sales & Programs, Universal Orlando Resort
Orlando, FL

I have spent the last year as an At-Large member of the SYTA Board and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience, being able to provide my insights and feedback on key topics and supporting the on-going efforts of SYTA in meeting the needs of its membership.  This year has gone by quickly.  I feel like I have learned a lot and added value to the organization.  My desire is to become an elected board member to continue the work that I’ve begun with this incredible team of student travel professionals.

My top five Clifton Strength Finder strengths are Belief, Responsibility, Includer, Positivity and Context.  I will continue to add value to SYTA through my dependability and dedication to service as well as my degree of loyalty.  I also have a fundamental conviction that all people are equally important, and everyone should be valued.  I am resilient in challenging situations and strive to always do what is right while maintaining a fun-loving spirit.

I look forward to the possibility of being on the board for the next three years and contributing all that I have.

Learn more.
Watch candidate video.


If you have any questions, please contact Becky Armely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 703-610-9028.