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Touring Titan

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  • | 6:58 a.m. December 20, 2013
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Traveler: Wit Ostrenko, president and CEO of Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, the largest science center in the Southeast.

Itinerary: Ostrenko travels the world searching for exhibitions to bring to Tampa Bay.
Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (referred to as MOSI) boasts more than $10 million in annual revenues. With 90% in earned income, 6% in contributions and 4% in government support, Ostrenko's job is to keep visitors streaming in the doors, while continuing to wow his supporters. He travels at least once a month out of state, but spends a lot of time providing tours around Florida, “raising resources and friends for the science center,” he says.

Mixing business and pleasure: Ostrenko says he tries to make a trip out of his business travels, but inevitably, his vacations always turn into business trips as well. “This travel, it's all business and pleasure — the perfect combination.” When Ostrenko went to Berlin and Paris for a vacation, he ended up visiting with German exhibitors from the Max Planck institute, which resulted in a business deal that brought one of its exhibits to Tampa in 2012. “It's a businessman's holiday,” Ostrenko says. Most people like to visit museums and see the best of culture when they travel, Ostrenko says. “I do too, but I get to write off my visits,” he says.

Booking an experience: To book travel, Ostrenko typically uses Kayak or Travelocity to find the best combination of a plane, hotel and car deal. If his assistant is helping him book a business trip, she knows to reserve the hotel in an interesting spot so he can explore. On his recent trip to Albuquerque, she booked him in a small hotel in the hills, knowing he would jog the mile and a half to the convention center. Walking, jogging, biking or swimming “is the best way to see a town,” he insists.

Open your eyes: Ostrenko advises others to look for things off the beaten path when traveling. “Find what the native people are doing because they can help you explore,” he says. Every time he travels, he searches for the best of art and culture in the area, and enjoys learning about the history of what makes a place different. While en route to a new place, Ostrenko spends his time reading a book on the area he's traveling to and taking notes on what he'd like to observe. At the end of a long day exploring, there's nothing better than returning to a warm bed with hot tea or coffee, he adds.

Bump in the road: 20 years later, Ostrenko still vividly recalls his worst travel nightmare when he was leading a seven-day Smithsonian tour through the Everglades and Big Cypress. The tour bus spun off the road into a swamp, landing at a 45-degree angle, about to tip over. Still miles away from a fancy surf-and-turf dinner, Ostrenko had all of his tourists get off the bus, and persuaded passing pick-up truck drivers to let the Smithsonian guests squeeze in the back seat with the drivers' wet dogs.


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