Know What You’re Buying
It’s important that when you decide to offer an itinerary for a group trip that you know specifically what’s in it and, conversely, what’s NOT in it, and that you understand the specifics of tour operations in that particular destination.
You may be inventing your own private itinerary for a group, or you may be buying into an existing trip that has been designed
by someone else – perhaps by an experienced tour operator. And if it is a fairly simple trip made up of coach services, one or two hotels and a couple of sightseeing activities, perhaps you can operate it yourself for the client organization.
But if, on the other hand, it’s a more complicated itinerary requiring knowledge of the destination and experience in tour operations there, you may be better off having an existing group tour operator handle it for you.
There is a myriad of operators, but you need to find one who not only has experience in the selected destination but with whom you feel comfortable and can work smoothly. I would suggest you start by examining brochures of a selection of operators. Compare itineraries of a deluxe operator with a standard one and then with a budget tour operator as well to determine which you feel would best be a good fit for your participants.
A deluxe operator will most likely be accustomed to working with smaller groups (15 or even less participants) whereas, at the other extreme, budget trips often try to fill a large coach. Well-known operator Globus, for example, publishes that average group size on its U.S./Canada tours is 39 travelers. Cosmos, a value-minded operator in the Globus family of brands, includes daily buffet breakfasts, while other companies may simply say “B” in their literature for breakfast or “CB” for continental breakfast (a light coffee and roll affair).
Most tour operators nowadays are including daily breakfast per the custom of the hotel and country and then some additional meals. Most operators are not including all meals as they’ve discovered that tour members like some flexibility with options to eat outside the hotel on their own part of the time. However, most operators like to start the tour off with a group welcome dinner the first evening and finish the trip with a festive farewell dinner the last night on tour. Budget tours tend to give quite a bit of free time for independent interests or for purchase of additional activities on the spot.
Certainly one of the important factors affecting the trip price will be how many complimentary trips you expect. If you need to have a free trip for yourself to accompany the group as leader and also a second complimentary for the president of your client organization, you’ll have to cost these in as most operators will not automatically be pricing it accordingly from the outset.
You’ll want to be sure you are clear about tipping – which tips the tour operator pays on behalf of each tour participant and which tips the traveler must be prepared to pay as the trip progresses. I’m always surprised by which tips many operators cover and those they don’t. Some operators are now offering the option for passengers to pre-pay a package of expected tips for the travel director and the coach driver as many travelers do not know correct tipping protocol on tour.
There are other factors you’ll want to consider when selecting an operator to work with. You’ll want to know payment schedule – when you must put up deposits and ongoing payments. You’ll want to know in advance what risk you are undertaking in case your private tour doesn’t sell adequately. And from the outset you’ll want to be sure to budget into the trip price promotional costs: advertising, brochures, direct mail and so forth.
All in all, being responsible for a successful tour for an organization – be it for students, seniors, a church, or perhaps a sister city visit, sporting event or just for fun – can be an accomplishment of which you can be proud.