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on tour ❖

marty de souto, ctc

Operational Hints for Hard Times MOST OF US ARE CONTINUING to offer trips during the current economic downturn. We know that if we stop our travel programs till better days appear on the horizon, we may never make a comeback. However, many of us have had to make certain modifications in our trips – perhaps presenting fewer trips, perhaps offering shorter, less-expensive, closer-to-home offerings. But going beyond those somewhat obvious solutions, here are a few less obvious ones:

the supplier what dates would be best for him. Often, your willingness to accept a date when a supplier really needs you will result in a much better “deal.”


Consider booking into a published tour or cruise date that is going to operate whether or not your group joins. If you only succeed in drawing small numbers, these travelers can still go – whether or not you reached the necessary minimum numbers to operate your own private trip.


Work with suppliers who are more flexible in their deposit demands, non-refundable policies, and last-dateto-cancel-without-penalty stipulations.


When planning your trip dates, don’t just pick dates out of a hat that you think will be good for your travelers or that are popular dates because of weather or festivals or what have you. Reverse your thinking – ask

14 December 2009


Consider joining with another organization from the outset so that both organizations feed into the same trip.



and other efforts to promote your trips. Work with suppliers you’ve worked with before, who remember you and how well you worked with them in the past. Now is not the time to experiment with suppliers who don’t know you and your track records and who, therefore, are liable to set stricter cancellation penalties, rules and regulations.


When writing your marketing materials, give your readers a reason why they can justify the trip. Potential travelers may not wish to appear frivolous when others are suffering financially.

If designing and costing the trip from scratch (rather than buying into an existing trip), budget more for marketing into your costing formula than you usually do. You may find that you need to do more mailings, more “last call” letters, more public relations, and more raffles and giveaways to fill your trips than you used to. We can no longer get by with just publishing the year’s calendar of trips and putting up a few posters.

Tough times may call for more mailings


at half-price” or two-for-one rates. Many cruise lines are doing this type of promotion now.


Consider offering your tour on what is called “tier pricing” basis – that is, different prices depending on how many participants eventually join. For example, if a group numbers 20, the price is $995, if 15 it’s $1,195, and if only 10, it’s $1,395. You’ll note that many adventure companies offer this kind of pricing in their brochures. They invoice everyone at the higher $1,395 price and if, ultimately, more join, they then refund everyone the appropriate amount just before departure.


Try other innovative pricing offers such as “bring along a new friend

Consider including some “do good” event within the trip. For example, require that each participant carry a backpack of school supplies and pre-arrange for your group to visit a school and donate these supplies to less fortunate youngsters. Projects like this will bring you more and better publicity prior to the trip.

Marty is founder and chair of the travel industry training program at Berkeley City College in Berkeley, Calif., where she teaches all aspects of group travel. You can reach her by e-mail at For information on her latest book, How To Plan, Operate, and Lead Successful Group Trips, click on Premier Tourism Marketing’s educational website,

News Flash O Pl wi ne us t F 10 h ev ree Pa er id y

Carnival Cruise Lines


“Fun Ship® ” Cruises From Charleston, SC

Ina ugural Season with Supe r P rice s Carnival Cruise lines has just announced the repositioning of The Fantasy to Charleston, sC and U.s. Tours is among the first to offer fabulous cruise tour prices. Operating five-day cruises that will visit Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas, and six days that will feature Key west, Nassau & Freeport. U.s. Tours has added a night in Charleston sC and a historic district Carriage Tour. It is a great package from a convenient port.

select Dates and Prices aug 31- sept 6

7 Days starting at

$569 Interior stateroom $619 Ocean View

sept 17-24

8 Days starting at

$659 Interior stateroom $709 Ocean View

sept 28-Oct 4

7 Days starting at

$569 Interior stateroom $619 Ocean View

Oct 8-15

8 Days starting at

$689 Interior stateroom $749 Ocean View

Carnival reserves the right to re-instate the fuel supplement for all guests at up to $9 per person per day if the NYMEX oil price exceeds $70 per barrel.

U.s. Tours Cruise Tour Package includes: • One Night at the Marriott Springhill Suites Charleston Riverview • Dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Charleston • All Breakfasts • Horse Drawn Carriage tour in Charleston • Visit to Charleston Old City Market • Five or Six Day cruise on the Carnival Fantasy • Visits To Freeport & Nassau in the Bahamas • Visits to Key West Florida on the Eight Day Tour • Bon Voyage Chocolates and Champagne • All Taxes & Fees on these services • Luggage Handling at the Hotel & Pier • One Free with every 10 paid Full Fare Guests • PASSPORTS ARE REQUIRED!

Call U.S. TOURS Today!


Rates are in U.S. Dollars per guest, double occupancy, capacity controlled and cruise only. Government fee/taxes are additional per guest. Restrictions apply. Ship’s Registry: Panama.

On Tour: Operational Hints for Hard Times  

Columnist Marty de Souto provides tour organizers some tips on improving their bottom line in this tough economy. She suggests working with...

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