Stephen Ekstrom’s goodbye letter to Relate Strategy Group stakeholders


10 years ago, I took a big risk. I announced that I had founded the Relate Strategy Group to provide promotion, representation and consulting services within the tourism industry. Today, I can rejoice knowing that this endeavor has been a huge success. While reaching this moment has certainly been a long road traveled, it marks the end of an era for me, as well as the beginning of a new chapter – it’s a time of evolution and growth for so many of us. Given the changes to my role and my own personal journey, I’ll be leaving my day-to-day role at the company. I will remain in the Relate Strategy Group orbit as a strategic advisor and advocate. I leave with peace of mind; I know that the incredible company, services and leadership team we built will continue to serve the tourism industry for years to come – providing trade representation, promotion opportunities, and sound advice that delivers tangible results. I want all of you to know that my heart is filled with appreciation, countless memories and optimism.

Working alongside this team and with so many fantastic industry colleagues for the over the last 10 years has been a privilege. Together, we built stronger relationships. We created engaging and innovative tourism experiences. We modernized our products, services, businesses, and industry.

Looking back on my time with the Relate Strategy Group, we have faced a number of daunting business challenges that were met with some unexpected twists and turns. I’ve seen my own team overcome these obstacles in ways that made Relate Strategy Group a better company and made our clients far more competitive. During these 10 years, we’ve built products that capture the tourists’ imagination, focused on our clients’ businesses, driven value for our stakeholders, and sought to make Relate Strategy Group the best place to work. Together, we have achieved what no one could have imagined. Let me take a moment to remind you of these accomplishments. They are fantastic and we all should be very proud.

  • We delivered more than $75 million in new business leads to the companies we represent

  • We grew our own network from under 1,200 travel professionals to one that reaches hundreds of thousands around the globe

  • We focused on developing great products, both for our clients and for the traveler, activating more than 350 features, products and experiences

  • We invested in technology, building on the offerings of trade associations, independent consultants, and media partners, to provide dramatically improved promotion targeting and attract some big name partnerships

  • We fundamentally improved tourism sales & marketing, teaching thousands how to inspire more travel by finding their voice and telling stories that capture the imagination

  • We raised tens of thousands of dollars for travel scholarships and donated hundreds of hours of our own time to improve our communities

  • We took hundreds of industry professionals under our wings through our mentoring, training and education programs so that they could advance their own careers and grow their businesses

  • We were recognized by the industry with countless awards and recognitions for our contribution to the tourism community

  • We captured more than 2 million impressions with content written by our team and featured across all avenues of trade media

  • We dramatically streamlined our product suite, improved the functions of our promotions and representation offerings, and make our consulting and training formats work better for our clients while enhancing the appeal of our products

  • We built strong relationships and made personal connections during more than 10,000 business appointments, product presentations, and sales missions

  • We delivered more than 3 million product views, impressions, and inquiries with our efficient print and digital campaigns

  • We logged more than 1,450,000 miles as curious travelers, eager to make the most of each trip whether for business or leisure.

As I look back on these achievements, I want to thank each Relate Strategy Group team member, past and present, for your contributions both large and small. You challenged me to be a more effective professional, a more creative problem solver, stronger leader, more engaging educator, and more empathetic human being. My own life has been made better because of your hard work, sacrifice, friendship, and presence. Thank you.

We always looked to do the right thing for travel professionals, those who represent destinations and suppliers of all types, and our stakeholders – each other, our communities and the extended industry. Countless impressive displays of teamwork, innovation, and resilience combined to make this all possible, and working with you has made my time as CEO a true privilege.

To my industry colleagues and team members… you have inspired me with tenacity, kindness, compassion, metamorphoses, and whimsy. You’ve opened your arms and invited me to be part of your personal and professional journeys; we’ve become friends, laughed, cried, dined, traveled, mourned, celebrated, eye-rolled, and shared unforgettable experiences. These memories, friendships, and yes, a plethora of crazy stories, will stay with me everywhere I go.

One need only reflect upon a cherished memory of a trip taken with a loved one to see how your brilliance, values, and passion have made a difference. I am inspired by you, and will forever be an advocate for travel – it brings positive change to life.

With gratitude,