The idea for the International Federation of Women's Travel Organizations was conceived by Blanche Berger of the then Travellarians of California in 1967. It was born through the diligent efforts of Blanche and the late Marian Sullivan, who between them drafted a format for the organization.

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Beginning with a list of convention bureaus and chambers of commerce throughout the U.S. and an article by Marion in Travel Agent Magazine, they spread the word. Invitations were issued to interested organizations to attend a founding meeting in March 1969.

Eight organizations attended that first meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Burlingame of what they called the International Federation of Women’s Travel Clubs (it was changed to Organization in 1977). Joining San Francisco as charter members: Philadelphia Women’s Travel Club, Travellarians of Los Angeles, South by Southeast Travel Women’s Club (Miami), Women’s Australian Travel League (Sydney), Chicago Women in Travel, 41º -74º Club of New York and the Association of Women Travel Executives-London.

The Federation’s goal was to improve the status of women in travel. Blanche Berger’s theme for the first Annual Convention, which drew 45 delegates to San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel in February, 1970, became the IFWTO hallmark: “People are More Important than Places.” SPIRIT (Society for the Promotion of International Relations in Travel) was adopted as its motto.

The Federation’s concept of breaking the worldwide organization into areas -- what became the Atlantic, Mid-Americas and Pacific regions -- was established in the early days, with the idea of further divisions as IFWTO grew.

In a little over four years, the Federation had expanded to encompass 20 member organizations with 3000 women in travel from the USA, Britain, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda. It was decided that each region should hold its own conference annually, usually in the autumn, with the international convention to be held in the spring of the following year (the IFWTO year runs July 1 - June 30).

By the time of the 20th Anniversary International Convention, which was hosted by San Francisco Women in Travel, April 30 - May 6, 1989, some 370 delegates attended, representing IFWTO’s roster then of 64 member organizations from 14 countries.

There had been other innovations: a World Headquarters office was opened in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, and annual awards had been established -- the SPIRIT Award, recognizing a Federation member’s faithful service; the BERGER-SULLIVAN Award, honoring a person’s or company’s significant service to the travel industry; and the SUSAN B. THOMAS Award, presented to the most deserving Federation organization.

Continually growing, IFWTO today boasts a membership of more than 3,000 representing 35 countries around the world.

March 1969, Burlingame, California, U.S.A. - First organizational meeting of IFWTO (From Left to Right) Betty Shanahan (San Francisco), Viola Parker (London), Elana Anderson (San Francisco), Marian Sullivan (San Francisco), [Co-Founder], Rae Rutledge (San Francisco), Betty Maher (Philadelphia), Viola Franke (Los Angeles), Ruth Hole (London), Pam Astor-Smith (Sydney), Phil Bocarro (London), Ria Wilheim (Chicago), Bettie Gabbie (Los Angeles), Ruth Sawyer (Los Angeles), Junie Morosi (Sydney), Sheila Jacobs (San Francisco), Nancy Henry (San Francisco), Joan Hanley (Cleveland), Peggy Kane (Phildelphia), Blanche Berger (San Francisco) [first chairman & Co-founder], Mary Donaghy Breeze (Philadelphia)