Making the World a Better Place Through Travel
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Ted Bravos, CTP, Founder and CEO of the International Tour Management Institute is an industry pioneer, thought leader and visionary. He helped to develop the first state-approved school in the United States, designed specifically to train tour directors and guides. When he is not filling his role as primary instructor, he remains active as a tour director, leading thousands of people to all parts of the world. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science Degree from California Polytechnic University, he served as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. Since 1970, he has been employed as a tour director and consultant for some of the most respected tour companies in America. A distinguished thought leader and expert, he has been a frequent speaker at industry events, featured in many magazines and newspapers and been a guest on countless television and radio programs. He also co-hosted a national TV pilot on travel called “Great Escapes” produced by Metromedia in Hollywood.
William Newton, Ph.D., Founder of ITMI, worked in the field of travel for 40 years. His experience included: travel agent, group tour planner-consultant, motorcoach operator, guide, driver-guide, and tour director. For years, he organized and led tours to Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Internationally, his specialties included Russia, Eastern Europe and South America. He wrote numerous articles on tour directing and about legal issues affecting the tour industry. He was a nationally recognized lecturer and conducted seminars at nine National Tour Association Conventions. Dr. Newton held an MA. Degree in Sociology from U.C. Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from U.C. Berkeley. Sadly, in 2002, Bill passed away doing what he loved, touring in South America.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) was founded in 1976 by Ted Bravos and the late William (Bill) Newton, Ph.D. At the time of ITMI’s inception, tour guiding in America was largely a part-time summer job for college students or teachers who had little or no training. In Europe, tour guiding had already developed as a profession with a formal education and certification, that met the highest standards of quality.
As seasoned travelers, Ted and Bill observed the vast difference between the “fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants” method of tour guiding as opposed to the professionalism they observed in Europe. Thus was born the concept for ITMI: a school in America that would give tour guides and tour directors the knowledge, practical skills and real-world experience to safely and confidently lead tour groups domestically and around the world. This ultimately led to the founding of ITMI. Over the years, ITMI has evolved to meet the changing needs of the explosive tourism industry. ITMI’s management continues to be actively involved with leading professional organizations including the National Tour Association (NTA), the American Bus Association (ABA) and Tourism Cares.
A Message from Ted Bravos, CEO and Founder of ITMI
While sloshing through the rice paddies of Vietnam as a 22-year-old Marine Corps Platoon Commander, I had an epiphany that whatever I do with the rest of my life had better make sense. When I returned home, I needed time to think, so I decided to take a short bicycle journey throughout Europe...that lasted almost a year. When I returned home this time, I was hopelessly bitten by the travel bug. Thus began my career as a tour director. I was one of the original survivors of the sink or swim, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method of tour directing.
While leading tour groups through Europe, I met professionally trained tour directors and guides. They could talk about art, food, wine, music, history and culture…they were like modern day Renaissance people! Most European countries have national guide schools that train people to be the “face of their country.” In America, tour directing was done mostly by college students as a summer job or by retired persons who earned a free trip. I wanted to ensure that tour directing would become a recognized, respected profession, and to give others an avenue to pursue their passion for travel. So, in 1976, my friend Bill Newton and I started the first state-approved institute in North America to educate and certify tour directors and guides, while raising the bar of professionalism in an almost unknown industry.
Since 1976, ITMI has remained true to its mission: to prepare students with real-world knowledge and expertise to professionally, safely and enthusiastically lead group tours with style and grace. Throughout the years, I have witnessed an infectious spirit of contribution and purpose that is shared by over 8,000 ITMI graduates from around the world. We began with a desire to provide students with the tools to forge rewarding careers in tourism. Since its inception, ITMI has evolved into a global community of goodwill ambassadors, many of whom attend the annual ITMI Symposium and Reunion, to share stories and experiences, learn from one another and interview for jobs with leading tour operators.
I believe that travel is the greatest university in the world. Travel is one of the most powerful ways to affect the way we think about ourselves and the world in which we live. I find it a fulfilling, yet humbling experience to explore the cultures and history of our planet and to share these discoveries with others. While I now primarily focus on teaching classes, I still look forward to leading a few tours each year. Even after all this time, I enjoy tour directing more than ever. Besides, I’m not going to let my students have all the fun!
So, if you have a passion for travel like me, and enjoy sharing that love of travel with others, then becoming a professional tour director might be the perfect career for you!