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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Planners are tuning in for “Tap into TAP

Travel Alliance Partners, the organization that has pioneered new ground in tourism industry partnership, is continuing to innovate with a series of technology-driven programs that reach out to travel planners.

Established in 2001, TAP is a company comprising 32 tour operators from across North America who collectively market and sell into each other’s products. The partnership is the first of its kind in the tourism industry: Because each member represents a different geographical region or area of industry expertise, the partners are able to support each other’s efforts.

The network gives each partner the opportunity to market its trips to a range of travelers across the country and gives each tour operator a wide variety of tour products to offer its customers. Group leaders and other travel planners benefit from the arrangement as well: TAP offers a series of Guaranteed Departure tours that will operate regardless of how many or how few people sign up. In addition to dozens of these guaranteed tours, the organization also has many more scheduled tours to destinations throughout North America and around the world, as well as custom tours available to planners who want highly personalized travel experiences.

Tapping Into Tech

The TAP tradition of cooperation and customer-centric innovation continues now with “Tap Into TAP: Tuesdays at Two,” a series of live webinars designed to educate travel planners on various destinations and tours. People from around the country can sign in to an online conference for a live video and audio presentation that takes place each Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern time, followed by an open question-and-answer session. The educational webinars are free to join, and interested travel planners can also browse an archive of previous sessions to get up to date on the product offerings.

“These are 20-minute webinars that are offered weekly,” said Shawn Horman, TAP’s vice president of marketing. “A different TAP partner brings a new destination each week and teaches travel professionals how to market and sell the tour.”

The series began at the beginning of this year as an effort to support the sale of Guaranteed Departures. But the response has been so strong that TAP now uses the webinars to showcase scheduled departures and custom tour opportunities as well.

“It has allowed us to bring hundreds of new travel professionals into the TAP family and give alternatives that aren’t out there in the marketplace,” Horman said. “They’re asking for more products, and unique and different products. So we feature Guaranteed Departures, scheduled tours and our custom group product line. The group market has become very important to our TAP sales.”

Topics for webinars coming up this year include “Tap Into World War II,” “Tap Into Fiji and the Islands” and “Tap Into Glacier National Park.”

Branching out to Banks
Much of the custom group travel business for TAP comes from banks, which offer group travel as part of their customer loyalty programs. Since bank travel planners are often busy leading trips or tending to other banking duties — and since banks occupy a unique niche in high-end group travel — TAP is expanding its webinar program to include a series of quarterly presentations designed specifically for banks.

“Several TAP partners are currently creating a program exclusively for our bank travel partners, which will be unveiled this coming spring,” Horman said. “While our bank partners are welcome to join us each week, we feel that by offering a longer program on a quarterly basis, we would expose them to new group destinations and ideas to better fit what they are seeking. The big difference is that the audience will be personally invited and that several TAP partners will be on the line to expand the discussion. There will still be time for questions and answers.”

The bank series, called “Tap Into TAP: Thursdays at Three,” will feature hourlong sessions highlighting multiple products available from TAP tour operators.

“It will feature at least three TAP partners on the line and will give it more variety and enhance the show,” Horman said. “Bankers will be able to see the fun side of TAP and how the partners interact with each other.”