So, you’re thinking of putting together a group and leading them on a trip in the future.

Maybe it’s to somewhere close to home or maybe it’s way across the country to an interesting destination.

Perhaps you envision a weekend cruise when you feel it’s safe to travel once again. Or maybe you’d rather have a custom-made land tour designed for your projected clientele.

But wherever and whenever it is, you know you have to make a plan. It can often take a year to promote and actually bring a trip to fruition. Let’s look at some of the things you need to think about in making plans to provide the best group travel experience and to be the best group tour leader you can be.

1. WORK WITH THE BEST. Pick a tour operator or cruise line that’s been around a while, has lengthy experience in providing the type of trip you wish to provide your clientele, is familiar with the destination you’d like to cover and is solid financially.

2. BE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR OPERATOR’S PROPOSAL. Do you know when payments are due and unreturnable should you or a specific traveler cancel his/her trip participation.

3. CLARIFY IF ALL TOUR ACTIVITIES listed as included in the itinerary are firm and are actually incorporated in the tour price that you will be advertising to your group members. If access to certain exhibits or activities is not guaranteed, are acceptable substitutes planned?

4. CLARIFY IF ALL HOTEL PROPERTIES LISTED BY NAME are actually confirmed for your group or are they only proposed properties at the outset? You don’t want to be selling a trip for which you don’t actually hold space. You may prefer to simply refer to hotels as First Class, Deluxe or whatever and not guarantee specific hotels by name until you are assured by your operator they are indeed confirmed.

5. BE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND what’s expected of you in the way of en route leadership. Will you, as the leader, be expected to operate as tour leader but with local guides assigned to your group at certain times only? Or will the company be assigning a full-time guide to travel with you throughout and you will be along merely to see that all goes well, provide continuity and enjoy your “free trip?”

6. WHAT PROMOTIONAL MONIES OR ACTIVITIES, if any, will your tour operator or cruise line offer you to help you properly promote the trip to your projected clientele? Will they provide you any funding for mailings to potential travelers? And if they will be participating financially, will they be paying these promotional costs at the time or only reimbursing you later if the mailing is successful in producing trip participants?


Private groups like this often have the best chance of success if they have strong leadership from the outset. Your group will appreciate your visibility at all included tour activities. Even if you’re not actually doing anything, just seeing you there will make your tour members feel secure. All in all, this trip can be one of the most exciting, challenging, and worthwhile projects you’ve ever undertaken. Give it the time, energy, advance planning and dedication that it deserves and that your participants expect. Who knows? It may lead to a new career and a satisfying personal achievement of your life.

Marty Sarbey de Souto, CTC is a Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) with a long history in the travel/tourism industry. She has been a tour operator, worldwide trip leader, college tourism instructor and textbook author. Her consulting firm is Sarbey Associates (