Choosing a Tour Operator for Your Student Tour

Here are a few things to consider when selecting a tour operator for your student group.

  • The size of the tour operator is important. If the company you choose is too big, then your group is simply another group on another day. In effect you are a statistic. That’s what it is with “big box” tour operators – volume. If the company you choose is a small “mom and pop” operation, you may not be getting what you are paying for because mom and pop aren’t the professionals needed to properly take care of your group.

  • Do some basic research on the tour operator you are considering. Ask some basic questions. How long has your company been in business? How many tours have you done to the destination my group is considering? Why should I choose your company? What is the worst mistake your company has made with a group and how was it corrected? It’s not the problem but the response to it that counts. Choose a tour operator who knows how to respond when things go wrong.

  • Tour operators that own their own motor coaches have a distinct advantage. If the company you are considering owns their own fleet of coaches and has a tour operation then they have a quality control advantage IF both portions of the company are equally qualified.

  • Don’t purchase a tour based on price alone! Make sure you know what you are buying. Compare every attraction, every meal and every hotel. Tickets to a Broadway show may be included but seat prices can vary by over $100 per seat! Know what you are purchasing. Think of it this way: the cheapest way to operate a school would be to hire all new teachers every year because they are more affordable than seasoned veterans. That would be a horrible way to operate a school! Tour operators are the same – cheap is never good. Cheap is cheap.

  • If you choose a tour operator that doesn’t own their own motor coaches, don’t let them pick the bus company for you. Work with your own motor coach company. Tour operators love to package their tours and then find a coach company that will “fit” what they guessed for the transportation cost of the tour. In other words, they will find the bus company that is cheapest so the tour operator can make more money. Hire your own motor coach company – don’t let the tour operator con you into letting them do it. If you do, you’re going to get an inferior coach company!

  • When the motor coach breaks down, ask what happens next. Every good motor coach company has contingency plans for mechanical failures. Coach companies that travel the same routes frequently have relationships with other motor coach companies along those routes as a backup plan. Ask the coach company you are considering if they will take financial responsibility for attraction losses if their coach breaks down. Ask the company how long you will be allowed to sit on the side of the road before another company is contacted to continue on with your group. Ask the coach company you are considering who is expected to pay for the cost of the replacement coach.

  • Safety records matter. The most important question to ask any motor coach company is about their safety records. Request their loss runs for the past five years. If they are reluctant to give them to you find another coach company! If the coach company is so large that they are self-insured you won’t likely get the whole story because their loss runs will be produced internally. That means that the “big box bus company” can choose what information they wish to share. You are not going to know the whole story.