Our Mission

The GRA is an organization of guest relations professionals from a diverse group of companies, who offer public and/or private tour programs. Our goal is to help members improve their guest relations activities through the provision and exchange of information and best practices and the development of a resource network.

The Guest Relations Association is dedicated to providing value and support through its services and benefits offerings. The GRA is a network within itself and facilitates networking as a service among peer members for the purpose of sharing information and ideas.

 

Our History

 

The GRA, founded in 1957, is one of the oldest and most valuable non-profit resource organizations in the United States. The association was initially organized by 13 pharmaceutical companies and was first named the Pharmaceutical Industry Tour Directors. At the organizational meeting in Spring Valley, New York, the agenda looked like this: The Why of Tours, Promotional Aspect, The How of Tours-Planning and Conducting, and Problems of Getting Cooperation for the Program. In 2004, 47 years later, the industry is still faced with the same issues.

In its second year of operation, 1958, one of the mainstay events took place for the first time. This event is called the annual conference. Kalamazoo, Michigan was the site of this conference, and the members gathered to share information among themselves on ways to best conduct tour operations and to witness first hand the operations of some of the member attendees in the Kalamazoo region. It was considered so successful, the association members decided to conduct a conference at least once each year.

Since 1957 there has been an annual conference held every year.

Changes and improvements began very quickly. It was at the tender age of two, during the 1959 conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, the association changed its name to the National Association of Pharmaceutical Tour Directors. At the 1960 conference in New York City, the association went co-ed by adding the first three females to the organization. In 1964, the conference made a return visit to New York and for the first time the association began to formally identify itself with tour program operations by changing its name to the National Association of Professional Tour Directors. In 1965 another significant change took place. The association opened itself to membership across other industries when the first non-pharmaceutical company joined the organization.

Over the next 13 years, growth was modest with about 27 companies as the total membership. In 1978, after the first twenty years, the association changed its name to: The Guest Relations Association- Plant and Industrial Tour Directors. In 1971, the Industrial Tour Directors became Institutional Tour Directors to further broaden the membership and the industry. It was not until 1978 when the members decided the best name to capture the full breadth of the industry was to call itself the Guest Relations Association.

From 1980 to the present, the membership continued to grow with 2004 membership at approximately 75 companies. These companies represent many different industries from Food and Beverage, Manufacturing, chemical, consumer goods and more.

During this period, conferences were conducted annually, newsletters published, a board of directors was established and has been functioning to provide leadership and direction for the membership.

 

 

Board of Directors

Feel free to contact the Board of Directors with any  questions that you might have. If you're not sure who to contact, visit our contact page for more options.

PJ Shelley
Louisville Slugger
President
[email protected]
Curtis Andersen
Sweet Candy Company
Treasurer
[email protected]
Venice Andersen
Sweet Candy Company
Secretary
[email protected]
Jeffrey Crowe
Heaven Hill Distillery
Vice President Membership Recruitment/Retention
[email protected]
Rebecca Stockton
Amway
Vice President of Conference Facilitation
[email protected]
Kristen Veto
Deere & Company
Vice President of Conference Facilitation & Social Media
[email protected]
Lisa Knipp
Coors Brewery Tours (MillerCoors)
Vice President of Board Development
[email protected]
Chris Wilkins
Ben & Jerry's
Vice President of Website
[email protected]
Jazmin Ramirez
Nutrilite
Vice President of Awards
[email protected]