Tour Operator Association

What I Learned This Week

Tour Operator Association – is there one for smaller tour operators? If not should we create it?



Tour Operator Podcast
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Hello, and welcome to Tourpreneur episode 87: What I Learned This Week.

First of all, I’m going to talk about, well, I’m going to ask the question, is it time that we had a nonprofit tour operator association for smaller tour operators; are the tour operator associations who are out there serving us?

And secondly, I’m going to talk about a positive story that’s just come in from Nice in France; someone’s just led a tour. Yes. Remember those? No, not a virtual tour, … humans getting together and going on a tour. And you know what? They were cheered by the locals. I’m going to share that with you as well.

The world’s only independent weekly podcast for the tours and activities industry, this is Tourpreneur.

So let me start with tour operator associations, so this week we featured the wonderful success story behind Milwaukee Food Tours and their care packages. It was great to finally share a success story. That’s what the show is built on. And obviously we’ve had to pivot, sorry, Damien, and I don’t like that word, we’ve had to pivot with our content obviously, because who wants to share a success story when we’re facing this crisis?

But Teresa mentioned in the show that she was very grateful to the NTA, the National Tour Association for helping her with mentorship and growing her business, particularly with this pivot that she’s going through. And that spurred a lot of questions. I got at least half a dozen emails from folks asking me, “Hey, the NTA, what are they about? Are they for me? Should I join?”

Arival Refund Policy

And also there was a discussion on our Facebook group and, and I urge you to join the Facebook group by the way, at tourpreneur.com/facebook. We’re almost at 2000 members now.

So I had these questions, and to be quite frank, I don’t know a huge amount about the NTA.

I met them a couple of years ago at an event, IPW actually, found out a little about them, but that was a couple of years ago. And I can’t answer this question.

A friend of the show, Jonathan, put me in touch with the president of the NTA. So we’re talking, I hope to bring them on the show. I hope to find out more, to find out are they representing smaller tour operators and if so how?

If you look at the, “About NTA,” their page says the NTA is the leading business association for companies and organizations that serve customers traveling to, from, and within North America. Our 700 buyer members are tour operators and travel planners who package travel product domestically and around the world.

All right. So if I’m a small walking tour in Vermont, or Alabama, or a kayaking tour in Washington State, is NTA for me? So hopefully we’re going to find that out.

But it just brought this question up for me, that there are all these associations out there, I googled tour operator associations and could see quite a few listed by vertical. S

So obviously there’s America Outdoors who’ve been on the show,. There’s the Adventure Travel Trade Association. There’s the Cruise Lines Association, Coach Tourism, World Food Travel, et cetera. So I can see associations by vertical, and I think that’s great; but who’s out there representing the smaller tour operator? Who understands us?

Who understands what it’s like to run a business, let’s say for, I’ll just throw this number out there, less than 250 grand a year. I know that might seem a lot right now with everything that’s going on, but let’s just use that as a number, are these larger organizations really representing us?

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a tour operator association just for smaller tour operators? And also wouldn’t it be even cooler if that tour operator association was a nonprofit?

Now I might be dreaming here, right? Because I’ve never set up an association like this. And actually, by the way, I’m not saying Tourpreneur will either, I just want to get this conversation going.

I would love there to be a tour operator association that you can reach out to when maybe you have a legal issue, or a health care issue, and they have experts that they can call upon to help with your issue. Or litigation for instance or you need insurance for your buses, or there may be a change in the law.

And I would love there to be a tour operator association that really does cater to the smaller tour operator. You could argue that Arival are doing this to some extent, but they are a for-profit, and they’re chasing dollars, and that’s totally fine. They don’t hide that in any way.

But what I’m talking about here is a tour operator association that is nonprofit, that works for us. And I would really love to know what you think about that. And yes, I’m talking from a US perspective right now because that’s where I live. But if you’re in France, Germany, England, the Netherlands, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, wherever it may be, do you have someone looking out for you?

Because what I would love to see is an tour operator association that you can go to for help. They may have courses and resources that you know are approved by that association, so you know you’re not going to get ripped off, and it’s going to be quality stuff.

What else?

Local chapters, that would be cool. And also events, conferences, even cooler. If you could go to something like that, where it’s a tour operator event, just for smaller tour operators.

Very often with many of the conferences, you go to, IPW, for instance, some of the speakers are just not relevant to us, right? Because we’re not dealing with the issues they’re talking about, or on the scale that they’re talking about. We’re just making a bust about making a living.


So let us know on the Facebook group, or you can tweet me, or you can email me. I would be very encouraged to hear your feedback.

And also if there is a tour operator association out there that is helping the smaller tour operator, and that may well be the NTA, it could be the USTOA, there’s various of them out there. I’d love to hear from you, and you’re very welcome to come on the show and share with our listeners how you’re representing us.

All right, the second thing I want to share, this is super cool. This actually happened over the weekend. I woke up to this news, brilliant. A tour operator posted pictures on our Facebook group, pictures of a tour, their tour and one the had led, everyone wearing masks, which two months ago would have terrified me.

Now, I’m kind of getting used to it. Now I get more scared when someone’s not wearing a mask if truth be told. And it’s Robert Levitt, who is based in the France city of Nice. And he wrote on our Facebook group, “We ran our first tour yesterday in post-lockdown Europe. Our company is called Via Nissa.”

“First of all, the participants could live no farther than 100 kilometers by law.” So that’s French law. “So we targeted the idea of getting to know your city, not as a first time tourist, but as a resident. And our focus was on the foreign community living in Nice. We needed to follow social distancing guidelines. So we were limited to 10 participants, including the guide and translator. But we had requests in the first 48 hours for four times that.

Everyone needed to wear masks, maintain their distance, and we avoided going inside any buildings. To be able to hear with the distance and the voice muffled by the mask, we used app technology, Uniti, which allowed everyone to use their own equipment and earphones.

This was the first visit in Nice, so it was covered by the local newspaper. Perhaps it was the first guided tour in France. While walking down the streets of the old city, that group was applauded as merchants were excited to see visitors to their city, even if they were local.”

Blown away by this! Absolutely superb. This isn’t a virtual tour. This isn’t an online experience. This is what we’re all about, showing people our city, showing people our attractions, showing people our environment, teaching history, sharing stories.

So Robert, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. Robert’s agreed to come on the show. I’m really excited to air that show and talk through this with him because obviously he has a pretty cool strategy in place. And he was kind of shocked by the positive feedback that the pictures got. I mean on our group right now, it’s hovering around the 200-likes mark. I told you the group’s growing. You need to get in there, come join us.

So I said to him, “Well, in the States, things are only now kind of… like, I can’t even have my hair cut yet.” Next week, apparently because I’m looking like a hippie right now. If anyone knows me, they’ll know that’s quite funny. So hopefully I can get my hair cut next week. But that’s the thing, we’re not allowed out in numbers yet. And I know each state is different. Each country is different. I am seeing exciting news in my feed of Spain opening up, and Greece opening up. And actually I think Spain was opening to EU, not just domestic.

So I’m optimistic that we can, not see things back to normal, but get us back out on the streets, or on the bus, in the mountains, on the rivers, wherever it may be going forward.

Coming up this week, we have two tour operator check-ins for you. And we’re talking to Marica Brewster all about local marketing. She works for the Von Mack Agency in new Orleans. So be well, and I’ll speak to you soon.

Thanks for listening to the Tourpreneur Podcast.

Resources for Tour Operators – What is Tourpreneur Approved?

Not a week goes by when I don’t receive an email from a tour operator who paid for a service/product/tool/app/course that did not deliver.

None of us can afford to be taken for a ride. So today I am asking you to help me create the ‘Tourpreneur Approved’ directory – a free resource for tour operators.

Resource for tour operators

This will be a free online directory of services/products/tools etc. recommended by tour operators for tour operators.

Who have you hired that has helped your business? It could be anything from a bookkeeper to a wordpress expert. Email us here.

What is What I Learned This Week?

Shane Whaley – Host of the Tourpreneur Podcast

“I want to share what I learned from the many tour operator webinars, summits, blogs, COVID-19 marketing guides that are being hosted and published. I hope you will join me by sharing your learning on our Monday School over at our private Facebook Group.”


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Shane Whaley is the Producer and Host of the Tourpreneur Podcast. He is also the curator in chief for the Tourpreneur Daily Brief. Shane has worked in the travel industry for almost twenty years.