2013: The Year in Review

Another whirlwind year has come to a close. While we welcome the adventures that 2014 will inevitably bring, we want to reflect on 2013 with our annual Highlights List  featuring the events, destinations, and people that made this year so incredible.

Spanning the Globe: Several education and law groups enjoyed professional exchanges with counterparts in Myanmar, and demand remained strong in Cuba, where we facilitated over 50 people-to-people and professional groups to Havana and points beyond. Europe was bustling with a renewed interest in the prehistoric caves in southwestern France, an exploration of Downton Abbey film locations, a family adventure in Switzerland, and a look at the legacy of Olympic Park in London. Close to home, art lovers descended on Seattle’s rich art scene and enjoyed visits to private collections.


Giving Back: Staff volunteered their time and talents this year in a variety of ways, and for two charities close to our hearts. The Fund for Education Abroad (http://www.fundforeducationabroad.org/) benefited from Team CET’s run in the Cherry Blossom 10K in the spring.

Meanwhile, five ATA staff members volunteered for Tourism Cares (http://www.tourismcares.org/) joining 600 other tourism professionals to clean up Coney Island, New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


We share our story! ATA produced a new corporate video this year. Partners shared their experiences working with ATA and their stories of meaningful and engaging travel that the trips brought to others.

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New Faces:  We welcomed a great group of professionals this year!

From top left to the right: Tim Ambrose,

Top left to right: Tim Ambrose, Sales Director; Megan Horrigan, CET Intern; Stacie Kellerman, Tour Communications Specialist; Joan O’Neill, Tour Communications Specialist; Kara Nichols, FEA Fundraising & Admin Coordinator; Kevin Hoercher, Reservations Specialist; Kimberly Sine, CET Middlebury in China Programs Manager; CET Hector Cruz-Feliciano, Brazil Programs Manager. Bottom left to right: Natalie Pascale, Tour Communications Specialist; Shelley Jessee, CET Director of Marketing; Allegra O’Donoghue, CET Middle East & North Africa Programs Manager; Leya Brown, Reservations Specialist.

Significant Milestones: In January, President Kate Simpson celebrated 25 years at ATA. Overseeing a company engaged in constant evolution, she reminisced about the many companies she has served, all while working at ATA. Never a dull moment, even after 25 years!

Kate Simpson

In May, we celebrated Dave Parry’s 80th birthday. The party was an extended family reunion, a real who’s who of ATA staff and clients who were here in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and in more recent years.


None of our successes would be possible without the partners and travelers we serve, and the dedicated tour managers and colleagues we consider part of our ATA family. We are grateful for all of you this holiday season!


Happy Holidays!
Chase Poffenberger
Executive Vice President


The Middle of Modena, Masserati, and More


Pagani_Race_CarHow could we top a visit to Ferrari? 

800px-Drawed_Pagani_ZondaPaganiDay two and we found ourselves in the middle of a small industrial park outside Modena visiting the most exclusive car maker – Pagani. Argentine by birth, Horatio Pagani has been interested in Italian cars since a boy, designing small models at the age of 10. Having worked for various big names in the field he founded his own company in the 90s and presented the Zonda in 1999. Since then he has produced a mere 130 cars, each one is beautifully crafted with love and care, using unique materials created by himself. From the small showroom showing the Zonda cinque (meaning 5 – as only 5 were produced) we were taken into the atelier and saw the small workforce paying meticulous attention to every detail. Pagani claims that Leonardo da Vinci was his inspiration and he admires the Renaissance attitude to fine art.

maserati_logo This afternoon we visited the Maserati factory. Here we were back to a production line with about 20 minutes for each station before the car moves on to the next stage. Maserati produces about 21 cars a day. The workers were much more laid back than Ferrari and the whole operation was much less slick than Ferrari. Our group enjoyed watching a team of inspectors deal with a misaliged door. They appreciated the checks and controls taken to ensure that the final model leaves the factory floor in perfect condition.


Tomorrow we’ll visit some car collections before moving onto Turin to the great designers of these elegant machines.

Mille Miglia: A Historic & Exciting Open-road Endurance Race!

Mille Miglia from Academic Travel Abroad on Vimeo.

photo (2)We spent the morning at the Mille Miglia museum in Brescia, learning about the history of the race and seeing the various historic models that have competed. Then we drove across town and our Italo-Aussie bus driver dropped us on the edge of the historic city and I led the group (praying I would not get lost as it has been a long time since I was in Brescia and I had no map) to the center. All the roads were beginning to close in preparation for the Mille Miglia. We came to the main street where all the cars were lining up and driving past the crowds of fans. There was a sea of people. It was chaos. I left the group together in one area taking photos and identifying the cars while I scouted out the quickest route to our restaurant. It turned out to be across the street but in the chaos  not all my ducklings followed. It was some 10 minutes before I realised that one was missing as I was just about to take my first sip of wine. A manic half hour ensued but thankfully the missing duckling was still where we had left him and enjoying the spectacle of the 400 some historic cars going through the streets of Brescia. Thank goodness.

photo (1)We enjoyed a lovely lunch in the center of Brescia with one of the teams competing in the event. There were several drivers at the lunch too (the give away being that they were all kitted out in serious rainwear). We returned to Sirmione in the afternoon to shop. pack and above all to dry out. At 7:15 I led our group across to the aperitivo tent in the main square and we waited for the cars to start coming through Sirmione. Young and old were waving mille miglia flags with much excitement while we sipped prosecco and enjoyed some delicious nibbles. Italians know how to lay on a good reception, even in the pouring rain there was someone slicing prosciutto and lardo. Yummy. Even better, the rain had abated and there was a sunset. Too good to be true. The cars had set off from Brescia at 7 pm and around 7:40 pm the roar of the old engines filled the air. There was a constant stream of old cars (anything that competed in the historic event up to 1957 is allowed to enter). There were over 400 entrants. As the light faded we slipped into our covered tent and enjoyed a sumptous meal, with front row sets to watch all the cars go by. There was a very jolly atmosphere among all our group as they tried to identify all the cars go by (I had the list of entrants and kept checking their knowledge!). The few females in the group were longing for number 271 and then around the corner, Brian shouts “that’s a Jag” and we all screamed “Daniel!” as Daniel Day Lewis cruised by. Several men in the group laughed at us 5 ladies in the group and asked questions such as ‘oh was he driving a Lincoln? Or was he driving with his left foot?!’. Memorable evening and a fantastic way to end a truly amazing trip.


Happy Birthday to ATA’s Chairman!

Last week friends and colleagues from decades past to present day gathered to wish our Chairman, David Parry, the happiest of birthdays on his 80th!  It was  a celebratory night and a wonderful occasion to commemorate a man who has inspired us all and continues to do so.Dave’s Birthday – 27

Dave's Birthday - 56

Dave's Birthday - 23

Dave's Birthday - 14 Dave's Birthday - 52

Falling in Love with Ferrari

photo[6]Smithsonian Journeys’ has hit an all-time high for offering travelers exclusive behind the scenes access!  During the first day of their Passion Sculpted in Steel tour of Northern Italy yesterday, the group got into the Ferrari factory for a private tour.  This factory is the mecca of all car factories and many of the  clients on this tour are fans and owners of this unique marque.

photo[3]Here is a personal account from our Program Manager, Emma, who is on tour with the group…

Before we knew it, we were  entering building after building to see where the engines are made and  watched the fascinating production line putting the body work together  until body and engine are “married” as the lines of Ferraris glided

over our heads. I thought we needed some resounding opera music but one of the clients said “oh this is like a beautifully choreographed ballet!” He was right, it was an amazing show watching the different processes, every twenty minutes the car moved to its next station for the next stage in its creation. We saw the the upholstery department too and the range of materials and styles. Everything is personalized to the customers desires – which would explain the price tags on these babies and the fact that it takes 3000 employees over a year to get the car from order to delivery to the client.

photo[2]The Ferrari factory is also an amazing village – with lots of green  spaces inside and outside the buildings, employees are treated very well, the temperature is very controlled inside the buildings as is the waste, all powered by solar energy and noise levels were very manageable – until we got to the private client’s car storage area. A couple of models had to be moved  – the guide ran out of the garage, I guess she hears the roar of those engines enough – but to my group it was music to their ears. A Ferrari engine makes a unique sound, quite unforgettable. It was a fitting end to a fabulous three hour tour. We also saw the Fiorano test track and the Formula One race cars. I don’t think we could have asked for a better start to this tour. Its only day one. Tomorrow we can Pagani and Maserati and much more.

ferrari-autosStay tuned for more accounts from Emma on Smithsonian Journeys’
Italian Auto tour!

Biking in Beautiful Chianti Country

Bike 20 kilometers through rolling Tuscan hills alongside Chianti wine country. Stop and meander through quaint small towns, then soft pedal to a vineyard for a quick tasting and zoom the last 6 km downhill to end a picture perfect day!

Join us in Siena in September at: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/siena