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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

TAP’s Added Value

Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) gives group leaders the power of partnership. TAP members offer a variety of programs and products to help group leaders reach new customers and grow their business. TAP has preferred vendor agreements in place with three cruise companies and runs a weekly webinar series that’s free and open to anyone. One TAP partner offers an advertising-share program, and others provide special incentives and niche itineraries that help entice new travelers.

Advertising Help

Image Tours partners with travel agents to split the costs of advertising their tours. The company creates a newspaper ad for each agency, builds in the tour and airfare price from each agency’s city and then splits the cost with that agency to run the ad in the local newspaper.

“We have a program that’s proven to bring new customers to your business; and by the way, we’ll pay for half of it,” said Justin Osbon, sales director for Image Tours.

Image Tours first started the advertising program in the early ’90s and has been running it ever since; it is now in about 193 papers across the country.

In addition to designing and customizing the ad, the company also helps throughout the sale, including providing a template cover letter for the first mailing to make it more personal and follow-up to give clients a personal touch in getting the tours they want.

“We’re helping [agents] build their business by setting them up as their local European tour expert,” Osbon said.

When people say newspapers are a dead medium, Osbon has hard numbers that say otherwise. Many group tour customers still read newspapers and trust using them more than using an online agency. They’re looking for help with their first trip abroad and like that there’s a local office staffed by local people.

“It brings new clients into their business, who buy this one tour then turn around and buy three or four or five more tours,” Osbon said. “They’re going to buy more because you helped them with that first big international vacation.”

Cruising Partners

TAP has preferred vendor agreements with three cruise companies that allow TAP partners and people who work with TAP partners to get better deals and bigger discounts on Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and AMA Waterways.

“If you go through a TAP partner, if you’re going to deal with one of these three companies, you’ll get a lot better rate or a better value, and you might get cruise credits, dinners or a combination of value-adds,” said Steve Everidge, secretary and treasurer of Shenandoah Tours and cruise chairman for TAP.

“It brings better value for the end user.”

Shenandoah has an in-office travel service, and when someone calls up wanting to go on a particular river cruise line, the TAP agreement allows Shenandoah to offer AMA Waterways cruises as a comparable option.

Sports Tour and Travel recently created a specialty itinerary with Norwegian to have a baseball umpire on board to tie into the company’s Bahamas Spring Training Cruise.

“It’s unique to both companies, unique to [Sports Tour and Travel] and unique to Norwegian,” Everidge said. “They’re going to have an expert on board; it’s something they normally wouldn’t have, so it gives them a different market.”

Shenandoah Tours often uses Holland America in Alaska and the Panama Canal. Everidge particularly likes Holland America’s product in Alaska because the company owns the cruise ships, the hotels, the buses and even some passenger cars on the McKinley Explorer dome train. In addition to providing consistent quality throughout the trip, it also gives TAP members and groups working with TAP access to those preferred vendor agreements from start to finish.

“It’s somewhat of a package there,” he said.