Our Mission

The Tourism Academy | tourismacademy.org’s mission is to educate, empower and inspire the tourism industry. Subsequently, making it easier for travel professionals to advance their careers, grow their businesses and provide life-changing travel experiences to more people sustainably.

The Tourism Academy is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization. 

Donations to The Tourism Academy are tax deductible. 

Know Better. Do Better.

There had to be a better way. So we built it.

We are creating a world where knowledge, skill, economic development, exploration, travel, and personal growth thrive together. 

Learn about our approach to Transformative, Engaging, and Accessible education.

Tourism Academy Founders

Stephen Ekstrom, Co-Founder & CEO

Lifelong learner, digital nomad and tourism expert with more than 25 years experience building strong brands, experiences and relationships.

Sheena Works, Co-Founder & Chief Learning Officer

Business psychologist and instructional designer by trade, Sheena led employee development for one of Forbes Fastest Growing companies 7 years in a row.

Tourism Academy Specialists

70+ team members, around the globe, working together to deliver more effective and efficient education for the tourism industry

Instructional Designers

Highly-skilled professionals who are responsible for creating learning materials and experiences that are engaging, effective, and accessible.

Business Psychologists

Smart folks who apply psychological theories and principles to improve a company's productivity, employee well-being, and overall organizational performance.

Tourism Experts

Leaders with a deep understanding of tourism principles, practices, policies and trends, who are able to apply this knowledge to help promote and manage successful tourism ventures.

Tech Nerds

Passionate about technology, these geeks possess a deep understanding of how technology works, including the intricate details of computer hardware, software, and coding.

We are at the intersection of hospitality and education - where people connect, relationships blossom, knowledge is traded, and ideas are given freedom to cross-pollinate.

Core Values

Who we are is as important as what we do. It’s called integrity.

Our core values define who we are, how we work, and our commitment to you.

We're on a mission

Our mission is to educate, empower and inspire the tourism industry, making it easier for travel professionals to advance their careers, grow their businesses and responsibly provide life-changing travel experiences to more people.

We build Great Solutions

We find and build solutions where others have only seen challenges.
We believe in sustainability. Online tourism ambassador training consumes 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions than traditional training.

We use our training

We find and build solutions where others have only seen challenges.

As an online learning platform brimming with ambition, no value is more significant at The Tourism Academy than We Use Our Training. Our courses are the common language, with actual instructional design and excellent educators, they do amazing things for our community.

We work as a team

What does it mean to be a team at The Tourism Academy? It means we’re heavily invested in each other and share success. Achieving an organizational goal is a win for us all; when we miss the plan, we all strive to improve. People at The Tourism Academy value teamwork and view it as an essential quality of our culture.


We respect each other

Travel teaches us that different isn’t bad; it’s just different. We have a culture of respect and humility. We are an organization populated by genuinely innovative and respectful (or “humble smart,” as we like to say) people. It’s an element of our focus internally and with our customers- we know they’re the topical experts, and we listen to them.

We Are Honest

Honesty starts with our internal interactions and decisions; everyone here is a part of it. In our culture, we value behavior that is straightforward and sincere. We seek the truth in things and love an open marketplace of ideas, where the best ideas float to the top regardless of origin. Obfuscation, deceit, and conflict of interest are unacceptable.

We Keep it simple

We have always wanted to build a fast, easy, and beautiful platform. Why? Because the alternatives for professional training and education are universally slow, painful, inconvenient, and complicated. Simplicity is in our nature. Making it easier for our users has created an enormous and lasting advantage for our organization beyond the web platform.

We delight users

The Tourism Academy designs solutions to meet our students’ needs. “How can they learn it?” is a far more valuable question than, “How do I teach this?” We are putting people in the center of a business function not known for it. By championing the learner, we are promulgating a worldview: that people, their businesses, communities, associations, and industries can grow together.

Advisory Panel

Our volunteer Advisory Panel shares their time and expertise. They provide insight that is critical to implementing relevant curriculum, enterprise services, and key strategies needed by students, employers, and the tourism industry as a whole.

Stephen Ekstrom, Co-Founder & CEO

Advisory Panel Chair, CEO and resident Nerd Whisperer at The Tourism Academy | TourismAcademy.org is Stephen Ekstrom. Ekstrom began his career in tourism development in the 1990s.

Al Hutchinson, Visit Baltimore

President & CEO of Visit Baltimore. He also serves on the boards of the United States Travel Association (USTA); Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA), the American Bus Association (ABA) and Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM).

Gregg Caren, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

Oversees efforts to promote and sell Philadelphia as a premier destination for meetings, conventions, sporting events, overseas travelers, and group tour visitors.

Adam Burke, Los Angeles Tourism

Overseeing global brand marketing and sales strategies for one of the world’s most diverse and innovative destinations. He first joined the organization as Chief Operating Officer in 2016.

Elliott Ferguson, Destination DC

Elliott Ferguson serves as President and CEO of Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC.

Amir Eylon, Longwoods International

A thirty-four year veteran of the Travel & Tourism industry, Amir leads the entire team responsible for the development and execution of all facets of this premier travel and tourism market research consultancy, from program development to customer acquisition and retention.

Greg DeShields, Tourism Diversity Matters

Qualified Tourism/Hospitality and Academic Professional Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) proficient in developing and implementing plans, strategies, and initiatives specifically designed to raise destinations image for diverse, multicultural travel.

Ophélie Le Livec, VisitNorfolk

A traveler extraordinaire, French expatriate, and rockstar on the rise in the tourism industry. She serves as a creative design specialist for VisitNorfolk and was recently selected from applicants around the world as one of the future tourism industry leaders/rising stars in this year’s Destinations International 30 Under 30 class

Keith Douglas, KD&CO Advisors

Founder and CEO of KD&CO Advisors, is a marketing, branding, and operations executive with 25+ years of experience in the travel, tourism, hospitality, and commercial real estate with globally recognized iconic brands and assets.

Kristina Wilson, KEW Legal

Kristina focuses her practice on General Counsel Services, Corporate Law, and Real Estate. Specifically, Kristina assists clients with corporate formation, drafts and negotiates an array of contracts, handles commercial acquisitions and leasing, and offers a problem solving approach to provide white glove service to business owners and investors.

Lisa Curtin, PAFM Calwell & Company CPAs

Lisa spent 20 years in the tourism industry as VP of Operations with Brightspark Travel/Tui Travel before moving onto a new career as Chief Operations Officer with Caldwell CPAs.

Vincent Agaba, Rwenzori Tourism Academy

Vincent Agaba is the Managing Director of Avarts Housing Ltd. He is a Director of the Rwenzori Tourism Academy.

Keith Snode, Group Travel Odyssey

Accomplished COO with a 10+ year track record of driving continuous improvement and enabling organization-wide mission and objectives.

Timothy McGuinness

More than 25 years as a senior level executive serving both the for profit and non-profit business sectors. He is currently Chairman of Sterling Advisory Group which was formed in 2020.

Sheena Works, Tourism Academy

Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at the nonprofit Tourism Academy | tourismacademy.org

Richard Peterson, USCHMC

An Ambassador For: Sustainable Tourism – Travel – Community Engagement – Art – Culture – History – Heritage – Brand Connections – Storytelling.

Roy Wentworth, Norwich Free Academy

Named Norwich Free Academy’s Athletic Director in April 2019, Wentworth credits the support of his family, the guidance of his mentor, and his unique perspective as contributing to his successful career as a student, coach, teacher, and administrator at NFA.

Samantha Keene, Executive Coach & Educator

A coach and certified educator and school administrator with over 15 years of experience in diverse educational settings. Her expertise is primarily in supporting schools with curriculum development and ensuring literacy achievement.

Anna Karnowski, PEEK

Consistently recognized by her peers as one of the top movers and shakers of the travel industry. Anna Karnowski was part of the opening teams at Top of the Rock and SPYSCAPE and has also been a senior leader at One World Observatory and New York Water Taxi.

Isaac Johnson-Tyas, DBA

An avid traveler and lifelong learner, Isaac has been working in the education and training industry since 2008. He currently serves as CEO of EduGuide KSA.

Dr. Eric Canny

He is a faculty member at the University of Southern California, Rossier School of Education in the Doctoral Programs for Organizational Change Leadership and Education Leadership. Dr. Canny has also taught at Stetson University and Grand Canyon University.

Juan Alberto Villareal, EdD

Alberto has been in the Learning and Development arena for over 18 years in different capacities, from Director of Operations of a Private School in Mexico to Consulting on Learning Development Programs for Retirement Communities, Hospitals, Colleges, and District Courts.

William Caldwell, CPA

With his extensive knowledge of tax codes combined with strong accounting skills, CEO William J. Caldwell is able to help his clients realize their dreams. His own firm exemplifies the business management strategies and growth principles he shares with his clients.


"The opportunity to work in a collaborative environment with our diverse and dynamic global tourism community is one that I celebrate."
Richard Peterson
US Cultural & Heritage Marketing Council
“...there is still quite a large gap that exists beyond the traditional education environment... The Tourism Academy helps to fill that gap by providing individuals the training and capacitation that is needed to not only improve their own livelihood but also contribute positively to the economic prosperity of their region.”
Samantha Keene
Transcultural Studies & Education Leadership
“Creating amazing and life changing experiences for travelers has to start with educating and training the staff that works to provide those experiences. At the end of every trip, it's not just the beautiful sites that people remember, but it is how they felt along their journey. It's up to the incredible tourism staff across the world to make travelers feel welcomed, inspired and excited to experience the world.”
Colleen Cleary

Partners & Affiliates

Trusted by tourism and destination marketing leaders.