Sandy Frost, Classic Club director at Resource Bank in Somonauk, Illinois, organizes the domestic travel for her club.
“I plan these excursions on my own and do not use a tour operator,” she said. “I call the convention and visitors bureau and use their help in making the arrangements.
“But on one occasion when planning a New York City trip, I could not get our group into a big hotel in the city. I realized I needed the assistance of a tour operator. With the help of recommendations from other bank groups, we found a tour operator that could be of help, and we had an excellent experience.
“We had heard a few stories about companies going belly-up and leaving the bank in a difficult situation. I would love to hear reassurances from others about using a tour operator and any advice the experts have for me.”
For those travel leaders like Frost who are concerned about the stability of a tour operator, they may be reassured by choosing partners who are members of national travel industry trade associations such as the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), the American Bus Association (ABA) and NTA, formerly known as the National Tour Association.
USTOA is a professional, voluntary trade association created with the primary purpose of promoting integrity within the tour operator industry. Terry Dale, president and CEO of the USTOA, had this message for group travel leaders:
“Members of the USTOA adhere to the highest of industry standards, and when group travel leaders book with a USTOA tour operator member, they are placing their clients in the hands of the most trusted professionals in the industry.
“Travelers want to know that their cherished vacation dollars are protected, and USTOA tour operators offer this peace of mind by participating in the association’s required USTOA $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumers against losses arising from bankruptcy, insolvency or termination of business.”
By working with members of USTOA, NTA or ABA, travel planners have a national organization they can contact if they do have a bad experience with a member company. Although these trade associations cannot address many of the business conflicts their members may encounter, they at least offer planners a means of reporting unethical or unsatisfactory business practices to a national membership organization.