As fall foliage travel season winds down and we look to the next year, how many of you are truly organized and ready to start a new year with a running start? Do you have next year’s trips in place? Do you have something for each of the various segments of your market? When was the last time you checked out your insurance, marketing plans, schedules for your trip leaders and other in‐office facets?

It’s not too late. You still have time left to get ready for next year. But do it now rather than wait ‘til after the first of the year is suddenly upon you. Let’s look briefly at a few of the areas you need to review if you’re to be a truly professional group trip planner.

Successes

Now’s the time to review your last year’s trips and see which were successes and which were duds. By success, I mean successful in two ways: successful in bringing home lots of happy travelers and successful in the financial sense. Perhaps it’s time to weed out a program that didn’t live up to expectations or re‐think how it can be changed to be successful next time. With new markets and new travelers with new expectations, perhaps the “same old trips” don’t warrant another time around. Or perhaps they should only be offered on a two or three year rotation.

Your Personnel

Now’s the time also to look at your trip leaders and in‐house helpers (both paid employees and volunteers) to evaluate their contribution to your program. Maybe they deserve a year’s end thank you—either monetary or in the form of a trip. If you rely heavily on volunteers, perhaps you need to review your understanding with them regarding their hours and what you expect of them.

Your Trip Leaders

Do you have your trip leader assignments set? Have you interviewed new applicants to keep your leaders pertinent to your changing membership? Do you have a “Letter of Understanding” with them so that their duties and responsibilities are clear? Are they prepared to handle emergencies?

Insurance and Legalities

Been a long time since you reviewed your insurance? Many insurance companies are withdrawing from the market, forcing operators to search for new insurance. You want to understand any insurance your organization has as well as review that of any vendors you are using for your program. The same goes for any travel insurance plans you are offering for sale to your travelers. Do they cover pre‐existing medical conditions, terrorism and financial defaults?

Next Year’s Trip Schedule

Have you booked most of your next year’s trips? Have you reviewed them to see that you have a balanced program for your organization? You should probably have at least one short, inexpensive trip to attract newcomers. At the other end of the spectrum you probably need one trip for the more sophisticated, well‐traveled individual who has already done Hawaii, the Caribbean, and much of western Europe. Perhaps something in the South Pacific, Asia, Scandinavia or South America. Your calendar should surely include at least one cruise—and not the same old seven‐day Caribbean cruise every year. Also think special‐interest—perhaps one trip for women only, one for food addicts, one soft adventure, maybe a river cruise. Spice up your schedule. Then publish an advance calendar, as your future travelers like to plan ahead.

Marketing Schedule

By what dates must you have your brochures and flyers ready to properly sell each trip? What about insertions in newsletters? Paid ads? Direct mail? Web‐site or e‐mail announcements? Most major international trips need a nine‐month lead time—some shorter, domestic trips at least six months.

Get ready! The time is now, not later.