Tom Baumann, President
Tom Baumann has more than 28 years of strategic travel leadership. Prior to founding Cruise & Travel Experts, Tom most recently served as President of Travel Leaders Leisure Group division of Travel Leaders Group which encompassed a variety of business and leisure travel entities. Tom was responsible for overseeing the complete portfolio of unique travel brands which included up to 200 employees and had multi-million dollar annual revenues.
Tom initially got his start in the industry by opening Travel Right, Inc. in West Michigan in 1987 and grew it to become one of the largest and most successful franchises of Carlson Wagonlit Travel. After selling the company to Carlson in 2000, he continued to head the Carlson Vacation & Business Travel division within Carlson Leisure Group which later spun off to Travel Leaders Group.
Passionate about traveling, some of Tom’s stand-out destinations have been trips to Namibia and South Africa and also travel to Vietnam. Tom has also been on more than 70 cruises with his favorites being the South Pacific, river cruising in Europe, and of course, the Caribbean. Having traveled many destinations around the world, one of Tom’s favorite sayings is “Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money ever will be.”
Major recognitions in the travel industry include:
- #1 Travel Agency in West Michigan
- Carlson Circle of Excellence Winner 1997
- Carlson Franchise of the Year 1995
“I am a strategic leader who will motivate my teams to ‘stop at nothing’ to deliver top customer service.”
Mark Schiffner, Vice President
Mark Schiffner has spent 30 years building companies focused on helping small business owners manage and grow their operations. A veteran of the travel industry, Mark most recently spent five years as COO of Cruise Holidays, a travel franchise business which was part of the Travel Leaders Leisure Group (formerly Carlson Leisure Group).
During his 24-year career at Cruise Holidays, Mark led the creation and improvement of a variety of new programs and initiatives in travel technology, marketing, and training. He was initially tasked with developing Cruise Holidays in Canada, and later oversaw the expansion of Cruise Holidays International in the United Kingdom, and Australia. He also developed a home-based focused business for Carlson called SeaMaster Cruises, which eventually merged with Cruise Holidays.
Ireland, Italy and most of Eastern Europe top Mark’s list of favorite travel destinations. He has also been on over 120 cruises so knows a thing or two about life at sea. His front-runners include river cruises down the Danube and Rhine rivers, as well as cruises in the Greek Isles and Caribbean.
“I am passionate about business and travel. Building and striving with a team is what motivates me.”
Jody Ryland, Vice President of Sales and Operations
With nearly 30 years of experience in the travel industry in both corporate and leisure travel management roles, Jody most enjoys helping travel professionals reach their full potential. Jody has led large teams of employees and independent contractors in helping them grow their businesses through effective sales and marketing strategies. Jody keeps her focus on employee and independent contractor engagement and professional development as the key driver to ongoing success.
For the past 11 years, Jody served as the Vice President over several businesses within Travel Leaders Leisure Group which included all facets of the travel industry. Prior to that, she worked for both Navigant International and Carlson Vacation & Business Travel which later spun off to Travel Leaders Leisure Group. Jody initially got her start in the travel industry working for American Airlines.
Jody also has a great deal of corporate travel experience including new account sales and implementation along with providing an ongoing consultative approach to position products and services to achieve company growth and revenue goals.
Some of Jody’s favorite travel destinations include the Caribbean, Hawaii, Bermuda, and Italy. She has sailed on over 50 cruises with some of her most enjoyable memories from sea spent snorkeling or diving in interesting coral reefs in the Caribbean. Another travel highlight of Jody’s was a helicopter ride into dormant volcanos in Hawaii.
Sharon Sikkema, Training & Education
Sharon’s first job in the travel industry had her doing everything from selling travel to deicing aircraft. Thirty years later, Sharon has built a successful career inspiring, managing and training travel agents. She worked at Worldspan/Travelport as a GDS trainer for seven years, and spent the last 11 years as a training consultant for Carlson Wagonlit Travel (later named Travel Leaders).
Sharon enjoys helping others learn and develop their knowledge base and careers. She prefers working with professionals who want to learn rather than those who are told to learn. Nothing makes Sharon happier than when a travel advisor advances their career by putting her best practices in place.
Bethann Rahn, Business Development
Bethann has worked in a variety of positions within the travel industry for over 15 years, and now works hard to support employees and independent travel partners at Cruise & Travel Experts. Having a MBA in business and marketing increases her knowledge with marketing negotiations, plan creation, events, and training within the company. Her previous roles in leisure travel, vendor relations, and business development have helped give her the experience and insight to help agents and agencies increase their sales and profits through effective training and marketing programs.
Bethann’s favorite part of her job is working closely with vendors to educate travel consultants on exciting, new travel experiences they can offer clients. She is a strong advocate of using a travel advisor to help create a fulfilling vacation and believes these experiences help people make memories that they can talk about for years to come. She has two favorite destination areas. For relaxation in the sun, she enjoys walking the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and for history and culture, she likes traveling anywhere in Europe to see all the ancient buildings and learn their history.
Beane Lynema, Support Specialist
As a Support Specialist, Beane works hard to provide our members the support they need in a timely manner. No stranger to the travel industry, Beane has been working in a variety of sales and support roles helping clients, travel agents and members for over 30 years. Her favorite part of her job is hearing that clients had their best vacation ever thanks to us!
Beane enjoys traveling and loves the Caribbean. She has vacationed on a variety of islands and has been on over 10 cruises to the Caribbean. She says Tortola tops her list for being a small intimate island with lovely beaches and super nice people.
Donni Jonas, Business Operations Manager
Donni has over 25 years of experience managing accounting functions for corporations and over 20 years spent specifically in the travel industry. Through the years, Donni has done everything from file brochures to serve as Office Manager and she loves the variety of duties she performs as it is never monotonous.
Along with managing the back-office functions of a large travel agency, Donni also works closely with independent travel advisors located across the country. She enjoys multi-tasking to stay on top of everything and her favorite part of her job is working with all types of travel professionals.
Donni’s favorite travel destination has yet to happen as New Zealand is number one on her bucket list. She loves any type of vacation that combines adventure with relaxation – exploring new destinations and taking in local culture is always a plus.
Vickie Meeuwsen, APR, Director of Marketing and Communications
Vickie has 20 years of experience in corporate communications, public relations and marketing. She has spent the majority of her career working in the travel industry with the past nine years at Travel Leaders Leisure Group (formerly the Carlson Vacation & Business Travel division of Carlson Leisure Group), before joining Cruise & Travel Experts in 2015. There, she managed marketing and public relations programs for a variety of unique travel businesses and led a team of marketing and graphic design professionals.
Her expertise lies in managing the implementation of a variety of communications and marketing activities to support the company’s vision, mission and business objectives including customized website and email marketing promotions, media relations, social media management, and creation of newsletters, blog posts, and internal communications. Vickie has earned her APR (Accredited in Public Relations) designation from the Public Relations Society of America. Some of Vickie’s favorite travel destinations include Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, Alaska and the California Coast.