In 2021, Tracey Schenk is celebrating 20 years with Educational Tours! To shine a spotlight on Tracey and celebrate her years of dedication, we sat down with Tracey to reflect on her years of service, some favorite memories, and lessons learned along the way.
How did you get your start with ETI?
My dad knew the previous owners Mike Kowatch and Pat Dyson. He told them about his daughter, who had 10 years of experience working in the travel industry. Even though Mike and Pat already had someone else in mind for a sales position, they agreed to interview me just as a favor to my Dad. The office was an hour from my home so I didn’t think the job would be ideal. However, to please my Dad who arranged everything, I went ahead and did the interview. Little did we all know it would be a match made in heaven. They offered me the job on the spot, and here I am 20 years later!
When looking back, what is a favorite ETI memory that stands out?
Every year, the sales team would take a trip to a new destination to learn about the area and do some team bonding. The trips were all fantastic and full of amazing sightseeing and dining. But my very favorite memories come from our trip to New Orleans. It was so full of unexpected surprises and laughter. After that trip, we went from being coworkers to friends.
What's been your favorite travel destination over the years?
I have been so blessed to have visited 13 countries and 43 states. There are so many incredible places to explore, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. In 2017, I traveled with one of my groups to Alaska and that was definitely the trip of a lifetime.
In your own words, what makes student travel such a life-changing experience?
When you are a young adult the world seems so big. So when an educator plans a trip, students have an opportunity to take an adventure with a group of friends. On tour they will meet new people, learn new things, create memories and open their eyes to the world outside their hometown. Let’s face it: After graduation, life takes over and the chance to travel on a bus with a large group of friends may never happen again in a lifetime.
How has student travel evolved over the years?
In the past 20 years, I feel the internet has created the biggest change for the travel industry. It offers the ability to research destinations and learn about what is out there. As a result, students seem more open minded about traveling somewhere different. Now that most students have cell phones, it’s important to keep them engaged. Adding an interactive or hands-on experience has become very popular. If you can create an amazing experience, they will share it on social media.
Another trend we see are groups planning trips earlier, giving them the opportunity to afford longer and more expensive tours like traveling overseas, to Hawaii or on a cruise.
What are your hopes for the future of student travel?
This is a good question and obviously my answer is different than it would have been a year ago. My hope is that our groups can feel safe to return to traveling without fear or caution. Our industry will follow protocol and do whatever it takes to build confidence and motivate educators, students and chaperones to get back out there to explore the world again.