A helpful guide to understanding the world of tour operator membership organisations.
They say there’s power in numbers, and joining an industry organisation is certainly testament to that belief. Having worked with hundreds of different tour operators over the years we’ve had our fair share of interactions with industry associations and other membership organisations…and this blog is all about exploring just what makes them so valuable.
Perhaps you’re just starting your business, or maybe you’re coming into the new financial year and are assessing whether or not you’d like to invest in a particular membership… Lucky for you, we’ve made the decision a little bit easier. Here’s our deep dive into the world of membership organisations and why we think every tour operator should belong to at least one.
Benefit # 1: Networking
This one may sound obvious, but there really are many reasons why networking within a membership organisation can be extremely valuable for your business.
First of all, no harm can ever be done by rubbing shoulders with other like-minded businesses and professionals. It’s a great opportunity to share stories, tips, tools, and experiences.
If you’re a tour operator or Destination Management Company that specialises in creating tours for other travel agencies to onsell, then the networking element of membership organisations is the perfect way to meet potential new clients.
Benefit # 2: Education
One thing that some of our favourite membership organisations over the years have in common is their collective mission to educate and empower their members. The travel industry is a dynamic and constantly changing beast…keeping up to date with new trends, influences and statistics is just not something that most tour operators can find the time to do (despite their best intentions!).
Utilising a larger force like a membership organisation means you get access to all of those valuable industry insights and you can continue crafting all of those fabulous itineraries that your customers know and love you for.
Benefit # 3: Recognition and exposure
Many associations and membership organisations will host awards where their members have the opportunity to be recognised for the work they do. Not only is it a nice pat on the back, it’s also a fabulous marketing opportunity for your business to be shortlisted or better still selected for an award.
Any good membership organisation should innately value their members and be proud to promote them. Getting your company news or profile publicised on a highly ranked website like that of an association is a great way to increase your organic ranking in google and is a fabulous way to reach more prospective customers.
Benefit # 4: More quality customers
We’ve mentioned it a few times already, but we think this benefit really deserves its own section. Arguably one of the biggest benefits to belonging to one of these organisations is the potential new business that can stem from these relationships.
Membership organisations are communities with a clearly defined common interest that have already been pooled together. Find the right organisations to become a member of and you will have tapped into a pool of prospective customers that are more than likely going to be somewhat interested in your business offering.
When it comes to actually tapping into your newfound community and leveraging the commercial opportunities your membership provider should offer you with plenty of options to make that possible. Whether it’s email campaigns, networking events in your local area, or an annual conference – start the conversation and work with them to come up with something that will be mutually beneficial for your business and for the members of the organisation you’re wanting to work with.
Some of our favourites
A deep dive into membership organisations wouldn’t be complete without us waving the flag for a few membership organisations we know and love. There are hundreds of options, so although it really is up to you as to which organisation you decide this list should help get you started on your journey.
A network dedicated to educating LGTBQ travellers and connecting them with businesses that will support their journeys. One of our very own, Cultural Italy are proud members of this fantastic organisation.
Europe’s leading trade association for tour operations and suppliers based in Europe. Currently, this association is over 900 members strong and runs a fabulous calendar of events, workshops, seminars and networking meetups for its members.
This association services over 1000 members from across the globe with a unique focus on tour operators in the adventure travel industry. Not only do they offer their members excellent events, they also have a huge line up of educational opportunities that we LOVE!
The UK’s largest travel association, ABTA exists to connect, support and educate travel agents in the United Kingdom. ABTA have existed for over 65 years and are driven by their core mission to raise the profile of the travel industry as a whole.
The leading association for businesses that serve customers travelling to, from and within North America. With a unique mix of both buyer and seller members, this association services over 2000 members across North America.
Founded by a small group of California based tour operators who were concerned by the number of tour operators declaring for bankruptcy in the 70’s, the USTOA now represents and provides security to some of the biggest names in USA travel.
TECNZ is an organisation that represents the interest of New Zealand inbound tour operators and works to help them achieve sustainable growth. They provide their members with a link to vital New Zealand products and services and have excellent networking and collaboration opportunities.
With over 1000 members across Australia, ATEC is the primary organisation for representing the interest of Australia’s $40billion dollar tourism industry. Offering events, education, awards, and connections to their members, this association is a must for Australian tour operators.
A slightly more niche membership organisation, IAGTO exists to educate and provide opportunities to their members, who collectively control over 87% of the golf holiday packages worldwide.
New Zealand’s only independent association that represents all sectors of New Zealand’s vast and diverse tourism industry. TIA envision New Zealand’s tourism industry being worth over $40 billion by 2025 and works to achieve that goal by providing thought leadership, guidance and support to it’s New Zealand based members.
Promotion via a membership organisation is a great way to enhance your tour operator website visibility. Click here to read more about this topic
Just like membership organisations, we value the companies we work with too! Read some of their stories here