On June 24th, 2017, a few of the original members of the Midwest Travel Community met for dinner at an upscale restaurant in Milwaukee, WI. This was the first time the members had been together since the group’s inception, nearly ten years ago. Each member of the group had traveled throughout the Midwest on vacation since. We had reunited to share stories and memories from our travels together. We also planned to play a round of golf together and to catch up on local happenings.

The Midwest Travel Community (MTC) is a relatively new organization, but it’s quickly becoming one of the most buzzed-about travel communities. As the name might suggest, the goal of the MTC is to unite travelers from the Midwest (that is, the Heartland) in an effort to create a stronger, more unified travel community. To that end, the MTC is bringing people together from all over the Midwest region to a golf outing in late July. The trip is an annual get-together for recent graduates from the University of Missouri, Kansas State University, and Missouri State University; the trip is also an opportunity for the members to get to know each other outside of the classroom, although it’s not entirely clear how this will

In the past decade, the Midwest Travel Community has evolved from a small group of travelers meeting in the Chicago area, to a large, cohesive community of local and regional travelers, and now an international group of travelers. This is not happenstance; the Midwest Travel Community is full of great people, who are very passionate about sharing their experiences while traveling. As a group, they share many common threads. They are dedicated to traveling, learning and making new friends. What we love most about them is that they are smart, very well traveled, and go very far and wide while they are visiting.

The Chicago-area travel community met for a golf outing in Illinois on July 19 for a day of celebration and long-awaited reunions.

The 2021 Chicagoland Travel Industry & Hospitality Golf Event took place at Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, Ill. It was an 18-hole scramble just for fun, along with a dinner, raffle and auctions of trips, which raised money for Make-A-Wish.

Julie Barry and P. Craig Ochoa P. Craig Ochoa, a veteran travel professional currently associated with You’re #1, and Julie Berry, executive director of sales and marketing at Eaglewood Resort. (Theresa Norton photo)

Apart from the golf, there was a distinct feeling of relief and pleasure that the tourism industry was back together after a tough year. During the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic last year, the golf excursion was canceled. Because most CEOs worked from home, they were unable to hold in-person meetings. Some employees were furloughed, laid off, or forced to change industries.

“We wanted to come together to show the rest of the world that we are still here – particularly in Chicago since the Midwest was struck so hard and the lockdown was so severe,” said Cheryl Gatto, director of new business development at Viking Travel Services in Westmont, Ill.

Anne Mickey and Carnival's Tom Panici Tom Panici, business development director for Carnival Cruise Line, and Anne Mickey, strategic account manager for The Travel Corporation’s The Velvet Collection. (Theresa Norton photo)

“So many travel companies have merged or closed, but they’re reopening now,” she said. “Those of us who have been in the business for a long time wanted to sit down and join together as one entity, one voice, to say we’re still here, we haven’t gone away, and you need us now more than ever,” she said.

Gatto took a glance around at the socializing and catching up group. “Look at how pleased everyone is!” says the narrator. “We’re ecstatic to see each other,” she said.

Dan Trankina, Pleasant Holidays’ business development manager, chaired the event on a volunteer basis, along with P. Craig Ochoa, a longtime travel executive now affiliated with You’re #1, a promotional products company; Roger Kraemer, CIE Tours International’s director of sales-Midwest; and Graham Mosey, owner of World Group Travel and affiliated with Beef Shack eateries. Patty Hall, who handled numerous administrative duties, was also praised by Trankina.

Michele Herron Penn of Couples and her husband Raymond Penn Michele Herron Penn and her husband, Raymond Penn, are regional sales managers for Couples, a golf outing sponsor. (Theresa Norton photo)

Trankina expressed his pleasure afterward, saying that the event went off without a hitch. “This is a highly robust industry,” he added. “This was unique in that individuals hadn’t seen each other in a long time. It was a really unique and warm sensation.”

Eaglewood Resort’s senior director of sales and marketing, Julie Berry, was overjoyed to see the tourism industry reuniting at her resort, which had its own setbacks and closures in 2020.

golf outing Pam Carroll of Gadabout Travel in Palos Hills, Illinois; Katy Cannizzaro, Royal Caribbean International’s strategic account manager; and Anne Mickey, strategic account manager for The Travel Corp.’s The Velvet Collection, which includes Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. (Photo courtesy of Theresa Norton) )

“It’s a happy occasion. The players’ and sponsors’ grins are amazing; they’re simply overjoyed to see people alive,” she added. “We’ve all been working from home or on furlough, and we’ve been trying to keep in touch. Dan and Craig deserve kudos for pulling this all together, keeping in contact with everyone, and doing it for a good cause.”

Next year’s Chicagoland golf excursion has been scheduled for July 18, 2022, so mark your calendars.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • midwest travel suppliers association
  • community the movie
  • cast of community season 1
  • community seasons
  • easter seals midwest
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