The National Tour Association (NTA) recently presented Jay Smith, founder of Sports Travel and Tours, with the 2019 Bob Everidge Lifetime Achievement Award for dedication to the organization’s mission for over 20 years.
At NTA’s annual conference, called Travel Exchange, in Fort Worth, Texas, on Dec. 12, Jay accepted the honor from NTA President Pam Inman, who told the audience that Jay has served as a volunteer, a member of the organization, a member of the NTA board of directors, and as board vice-chair and chair.
“Jay’s first NTA convention was in 2000 in Salt Lake City,” Pam said. “He has been active, engaging and leading ever since. He is a positive powerhouse of support. I’m proud to call him my friend.”
Applause and a standing ovation for Jay followed Pam’s warm comments, and Jay took to the stage, donning a cowboy hat and a smile. After removing the hat, Jay told the audience that when he first attended an NTA Contact event—in Portland that year, 2014—his wife, Carol, attended with him.
“At the end of the first night, she made a comment, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to do this forever? Every single person is nicer than the last person I met.’”
“Carol,” Jay said he told her. “We’re all in the hospitality business. Being nice is what we do.”
Jay was first elected to the NTA board in 2012. He was vice-chair in 2016 and chair in 2017. “He continues to be actively involved today as a sponsor and volunteer and as a member,” Pam told the crowd, adding that Smith sits on the NTA Nominating Committee and the Owner’s Network.
NTA is the leading business-building association for professionals serving customers traveling to, from and within North America. In accepting his award, Jay said the professionals he has met as part of the network have helped him grow and develop as a business person in the industry.
“This is as humbling a moment as I could ever have in my lifetime,” he said.
Jay founded Sports Travel and Tours in 1996, offering tours to baseball games initially and then expanding to include other sports trips in a wider range of venues, including Cuba, London and Japan.
Support from his staff and Carol allowed him to dedicate time to the NTA and its goals. Fellow NTA members helped support the board in achieving those goals. “This is a group award,” he told the crowd of NTA members. “If it wasn’t for all of you on this team, we wouldn’t have been hitting any home runs. We would have been striking out.”
Jay added, “My office staff is phenomenal.”
NTA acts as a dedicated advocate on behalf of its members and the tourism industry at large. Active with policymakers in Congress and the administration, the association coordinates with its partners on a number of key legislative issues. It’s governed by a volunteer board of directors, which is advised by volunteer committees.
During Jay’s tenure as chair of the NTA board, the organization was focused on a number of policy priorities, including specialty travel markets in countries including India and China, travel between Cuba and the United States and funding for the National Park Service Centennial.
Jay is active in Tourism Cares and Travel Alliance Partners, two industry-focused organizations, and Sports Travel and Tours has been the official travel company of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum since 2007.
He told the NTA audience that getting involved will bring positive results. “If you become engaged, pitch in and become a part of this association, you’ll come to call it a family, as I do.”