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Members on Markets: Student Travel | Leadership Team Set for 2012

January 31, 2012

Volume 32, Issue 5

Interested in advertising in Tuesday? E-mail Karla DiNardo.

Members on Markets in Today’s Tuesday: Student Travel
      Keep Up with Changes, says About Tour’s Jenifer Robertson
      Set Safety as a Priority: Carylann Assante of SYTA 
      8 Ways to Convince Student Group Leaders to Use a Tour Operator
      How to Use Travel as a Value Proposition, with Explorica’s Stephane Cosse
      Big Piece of the Packaged Travel Pie
Leadership Team Set for 2012
Have You Renewed Your NTA Membership? It’s Time!
February Courier Filled with Insight and Info
Get the Five-year Forecast for International Travel into the U.S.
Promote Yourself in NTA’s annual Membership Directory
Industry News and Updates

Members on Markets in Today’s Tuesday: Student Travel  

Starting today, each end-of the-month issue of Tuesday will feature "Members on Markets"—current insights and ideas from NTA members (and friends) on a specific market or travel type. Today’s topic: Student Travel.

Reasons to read:

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Keep Up with Changes, says About Tour’s Jenifer Robertson 

When student groups visit Chicago, they might be following Jenifer Robertson’s itinerary. Robertson is co-owner of About Tours in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a receptive operator for student groups coming to the Windy City.

1.31.12RobertsonRobertson and partner Courtney Ashley have been in business since 1994, and, a former teacher herself, Robertson sees a changing student traveler.

"Students today are much more sophisticated, and many are well-traveled," she said.  "They also are constantly connected to the Internet."

That connectivity can deter from the experience when students on the coach have earphones on and tune out the tour guide and the sights. Some teachers ban electronic devices entirely or collect them in the morning and return them in the evening. Robertson tries another approach.

"We try to incorporate the devices if possible," she said. "There are some great tours that can be downloaded."

Another challenge About Tours faces is reduced school budgets, which can mean shorter trips with fewer high-cost items. Robertson and her staff have negotiated excellent hotel rates, though, and have found other ways to lower costs without cheapening the trip.

"We have an Ethnic Treasure Hunt tour where the students find answers to clues provided by the tour guide and are rewarded with treats from different neighborhoods," she said. "We also do dance lessons and take students to business owners who speak to the group and give them samples, including a local toffee and popcorn shop."

Looking ahead, Robertson is confident that student travel will continue to grow, and that parents will not deprive their children of a travel experience offered by their school. She has also found that once her company has provided students an enriching and unique experience in Chicago, the school will use About’s services year after year. Robertson believes that the student travel market, as with other types, will demand more unique experiences and activities.

And while student travelers have become more sophisticated, Robertson knows firsthand what makes educational trips appealing to kids. Years ago, after her son had completed a sixth-grade class trip to Springfield, Robertson asked how she could improve the product.

"He said we should just take out all the Lincoln stuff and go straight to the go-cart place." 

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Set Safety as a Priority: Carylann Assante of SYTA 

With today’s challenging economic and regulatory environment, many school districts are reviewing policies on student travel. Principals and school boards—and parents—are looking carefully at the safety and risk associated with group travel.  

Educators and parents are likely to research tour companies to assess their safety standards, said Carylann Assante, executive director of STYA (Student & Youth1.31.12Assante Travel Association). She offers these guidelines for student tour operators:  

Discuss the destination: "Be prepared to discuss the destination and educational objectives of your program with the group travel leader to demonstrate your experience and familiarity with the destination," Assante said. "A professional travel planner will have group histories and previous itineraries to support their programs." 

Establish trust: "We recommend that the company be in business under current ownership for a minimum of three years and has not filed bankruptcy in the past five years," Assante said. "A background check will show if the [company] principals have been convicted of any offense involving fraud, deception, breach of trust, child abuse or any other felony."  

Show you’re insured: Assante said that liability insurance is the No. 1 reason educators seek the services of a group travel planner for student programs. "They’re often not aware or prepared for the financial risks associated with group travel," she said. "As a student tour operator, you should be able to demonstrate that your company has general and professional (errors and omissions) liability insurance, plus a risk management plan." (The recognized standard is a minimum of $1 million dollars.)       

Prepare your team: "When it comes to travel safety, knowledge is power and communication is key," Assante said. "Safety is a team effort. Each person involved with a trip must understand their role so that participants are in the safest possible environment at all times."

Other suggestions to prepare for safe student group travel include gathering medical information, packing a basic first aid kit, making copies of airline tickets and passports, and discussing cash needs and non-cash options.

STYA works with other associations and government agencies to ensure safety standards and best practices for students and youth traveling worldwide. For more suggestions about safety, visit the SYTA Web site.

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8 Ways to Convince Student Group Leaders to Use a Tour Operator  

In the last issue of the NTA Student Trip Planner, we told readers (teachers, principals, band and choral leaders, college music directors, etc.) exactly why they should look to NTA tour operators to plan travel for their groups. You can point out these same reasons:

  • Worldwide reach
  • Volume pricing
  • Insider knowledge
  • Easier planning
  • Valuable experience
  • Customized options
  • Intuitive pacing
  • Reliable service

Click here to get expanded information for each bullet point. The 2012-2013 edition of this resource guide will arrive in trip planners’ mailboxes in early March.

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How to Use Educational Travel as a Value Proposition, with Explorica’s Stephane Cosse 

When you send hundreds of student groups overseas each year to explore different cultures and people, you start to get a good feel—and a good feeling—for your work. That’s the case with Stephane Cosse, vice president for air operations at Explorica, 1.31.12Cossebased in Boston, Massachusetts.

"Our vision is to create a better world by enriching every student with a cultural experience through educational travel," Cosse said. "We strongly believe that travel fosters a global understand and appreciation for other cultures."

And there are plenty of global sites for Explorica’s travelers to appreciate. Itineraries range from "Battlefields of Europe" and "Best of South Africa" to "Costa Rica: Culture & Compassion." Explorica also offers an assortment of North American tours, allowing students to focus on sites and topics as varied as coral reefs in Florida, the Alaskan frontier, and the history and heritage of Montréal and Québec.

Cosse said that while most parents embrace the value of educational travel, economic realities always factor in, especially in recent years.

"When parents are in the decision-making process, they not only consider the price of the tour and their child’s safety and security, but they must also think about the security of their own jobs," he said.

Cosse added that in some cases, groups are getting smaller: Veteran teachers who used to travel with two full buses now travel with one. On the other hand, he sees younger teachers whose group size has grown as they have gained experience.

It’s one thing for Explorica to tout the value of educational travel, but they’ve got the facts to back it up. The company conducted a study comparing people who had traveled outside the U.S. during their student years with people who had not. The results? Students who traveled on educational tours:

  • Attained a higher degree of education,
  • Held a higher college GPA,
  • Maintained full-time employment longer and
  • Embraced more international travel in their jobs.

Even in a world with a sometimes-shaky economy, Cosse foresees more schools and students making educational tours part of their academic curriculum.

"The student travel market has been resilient. Students, parents and teachers understand the value of educational travel," he said. "It’s the key to opening the minds of future generations."

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Big Piece of the Packaged Travel Pie 

Student travel represents a sizable chunk of business for NTA tour operators. Twenty-one percent of all customers served by member operators are under 21 years old. Here’s how the student market compares to other age groups: 

 2012 CustomerTypes


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Leadership Team Set for 2012 

NTA is a member-focused association that relies on volunteers to help lead the organization. The NTA Board of Directors receives input from eight groups—committees and task forces—that give voice to member needs, concerns and ideas. Together these groups comprise the Leadership Team, most of which will convene in conjunction with the Feb. 3–6 board meeting in Spokane, Washington.

To see the list of board members, click here. For the list of committees and members of the Leadership Team, click here.

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Have You Renewed Your NTA Membership? It’s Time! 

It’s that time of year again. It’s that time of year again—time to renew your NTA membership. If you haven’t renewed yours yet, it’s easy to renew online. All you need is your company’s primary contact login/password, and you’ll be taken quickly through the process. Questions? E-mail NTA headquarters or call +1.859.264.6540.

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February Courier Filled with Insight and Info 

The February Courier is packed with serious content from front to back, including plenty of how-to information:

  • Want ideas for how to maximize your NTA membership? Turn to page 16 for nine tips to ensure you’re not missing1.31.12CourierFeb anything that NTA offers its members.
  • Interested in exploring new markets? Flip to page 12 to read the second part of OTTI’s two-part series on characteristics of the Russian traveler and how to reach this growing market.
  • Want to know where you can go to find qualified applicants to develop your internship program? Turn to page 17 to find out about Tourism Cares’ new site:
  • And don’t miss Courier‘s 2012 Guide to NTA Casinos and Gaming, starting on page 47.

The February destination articles highlight the Atlantic Coast region, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. This month’s feature story, "NTA and Government Relations," offers a look at NTA’s advocacy work, what issues matter to your business and how you can get involved.

Repeat advertisers in this issue are Amish Acres, Aon Affinity Berkely Travel, Empire State Building, Maid of the Mist Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line and Phillips Cruises & Tours LLC. We’re grateful to our repeat advertisers (those who book in three or more issues of Courier per year). Click here for more information.

Upcoming content and deadlines: 

May Issue: Italy, Smoky Mountains (Ashville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge), Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Chicago, Montreal; Industry Topic: Adventure Tourism; Special Section: America’s National Parks.
Ad Space: Feb. 29
Editorial: Jan. 30

June Issue: Gulf Coast (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas); Latin America; Delaware; Maryland; Pennsylvania; Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Special Section: Native American & First Nations; Guide: Sightseeing Receptive.
Ad Space: April 4
Editorial: March 5

July 2012 Issue: Austria, Germany & Switzerland; Southern California; Kentucky; Tennessee; West Virginia; Manitoba; Saskatchewan.
Ad Space: May 2
Editorial: April 2

Click here to view the entire 2012 editorial calendar.

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Get the Five-year Forecast for International Travel into the U.S.  

If you want to polish your international marketing plan (or get started on one), join an hour-long Webinar that gives a five-year forecast for U.S. inbound travel and tourism.

The online session, scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 8, at noon ET, will examine the top 10 visitor origin markets (plus other select markets), providing a country-by-country forecast, along with an explanation of the research. The Webinar is presented by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries and the Commercial Service Travel & Tourism Team.

The cost of the Webinar is US$50. Click here to register. For questions, contact Anastasia Xenias, Ph.D., (212.482.1856); Julie Heizer (202.482.4904); or Mark Brown (202.482.4754).

OTTI analyzes international travel and tourism statistics for the U.S. Travel and Tourism Statistical System. To see monthly estimates on international visitors, click here.

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Promote Yourself in NTA’s annual Membership Directory 

Nearly 80 percent of NTA tour operators say they use the Membership Directory in their day-to-day jobs. Want to stand out on the page and catch their eye?


Tour operators, you can use this opportunity to reach other tour operators you may be selling to. And tour suppliers/DMOs, here’s how to stand out among your competitors on the page.

Interested in learning how to enhance your listing-or book a display ad in NTA’s annual Membership Directory? E-mail NTA Services Inc. or call 859.264.6559 today! 

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Industry News and Updates

  • In a story on, Paul Nauta, public affairs manager for NTA member FamilySearch at Temple Square, offers advice for travelers researching their family ancestry.
  • The share of U.S. travel booked online is expected to increase to 40 percent by 2013, growing just one percentage point over five years, according to PhoCusWright. In 2011, online penetration ranged from rail (54 percent) and air (50 percent) to cruises (11 percent) and traditional vacation packages (5 percent).
  • International visitors spent US$12.7 billion on travel to and within the United States during the month of November last year, a 10 percent increase over November 2010.

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