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GROUP TRAVEL LE ADER T H E NTA members gathered February 26 to March 2 for their 2017 Travel Exchange in St. Louis. As one of America's iconic baseball cities, it offered a perfect metaphor for this transition year for NTA's annual industry event. You could say that in the first game of a cru- cial doubleheader, NTA drew roughly 1,000 delegates and fans to St. Louis. A second 2017 Travel Exchange, its traditional fourth-quarter annual meeting, will be held December 14-18, in San Antonio. In 2018, the association returns to one annual meeting when the Exchange is held in Milwaukee, November 4-8. "We have about 200 tour operators here with us this week, including 45 who are attending for the first time this year," NTA president Pam Inman told a media gathering early in the week. "We also have 25 Chinese inbound operators with us this week from a group of 220 inbound operators who have enrolled in our China Inbound Program since its launch in 2008." Inman recognized Lin Wang, NTA's new director of China market services, who came aboard just a few weeks ago to help manage the China inbound program NTA launched with the official approval of the China National Tourism Administration. "We're happy to have Lin with us to help facilitate this major initiative when Chinese tour- ism to this country is surging," she said. In a prepared statement, Inman also addressed the current hardships that U.S. travel restrictions have placed on the travel industry. "We're in the business of welcoming visitors, and NTA members know firsthand that travel builds bridges of understanding," she said. "I N TA H O L D S F I R S T O F T WO T R AV E L E XC H A N G E S I N 2017 TOP: NTA PRESIDENT PAM INMAN, RIGHT, ENJOYS BALLPARK VILLAGE EVENT CENTER: 2017 NTA CHAIRMAN JAY SMITH, RIGHT, WITH SCOT MONDORE OF THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BOTTOM: DELEGATES MEET IN THE TRAVEL EXCHANGE IN ST. LOUIS B Y M A C L A C Y Courtesy NTA hope international travelers can look past the politics and see the people here." Following the briefing, new NTA chairman Jay Smith of Sports Travel and Tours in Boston addressed the need for NTA to finish the second game of this doubleheader with a win. Smith ref- erenced his personal mantra for the year ahead: "Just bring one." "This is a business of passion," said Smith, whose company packages sports events inside and outside the United States. "My personal challenge to all our delegates here this week is to bring another industry member with them to San Antonio in December. Our members wanted us to return to the fourth quarter, and we've done it. So now I am asking that we all bring someone with us for that convention." Smith made it clear that for his company's purposes, he likes the move back into the fourth quarter. "Those are better dates for my business," he said. "I'm in a better position to plan then than I am in January. It requires our industry members to have their rates ready earlier, but I think it's better for a lot of tour operators who are plan- ning and buying." Smith's two primary goals during his year as chairman are to grow the association's base and to support the management team's long-term objectives. "I stayed on the board a second term to sup- port the management changes we made two and a half years ago," he said. "I'm invested in this process and want to see us succeed and return to our traditional role as the host of a major fourth-quarter meeting for the travel industry."