Tour Packages and News for February 2012

Tour operator news, packages and promotions By: Kenneth Shapiro
The 2012 USTOA Executive Committee // © 2012 United States Tour Operators Association
The 2012 USTOA Executive Committee // © 2012 United States Tour Operators Association

North America
Pleasant Holidays recently launched sales of Washington, D.C., packages, featuring 10 hotels, private transportation and car rentals.

Central America
Two daytime cruises on the Panama Canal are included in Caravan’s Panama Canal Cruise, Rainforests and Beaches eight-day itinerary, which starts at $1,095.

South Africa
Extraordinary Journeys: Africa’s eight-day itinerary includes Cape Town’s Gay Pride Week and a safari.

Insight Vacations is now offering 12 itineraries to India and Nepal, including the 11-day Enchanting Kerala trip, which begins at $2,925.

MIR Corp’s 10-day Inside the Russian Space Program 2012 trip takes clients to Baikonur for the launching of the Soyuz Rocket, starting at $14,000.


In Brief:

USTOA Sees Record Conference Attendance
A spirit of change cited by members

Last month, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) hosted the largest crowd ever at its annual conference. More than 800 tour operators, destinations, airlines and representatives from other segments of the travel industry gathered for the three-day conference at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club and Spa in Marco Island, Fla. The conference was comprised of general sessions — including one with guest speaker Lesley Stahl from the CBS show “60 Minutes” — one-on-one appointments, networking events and workshops and panels on a variety of topics.

The conference marked the first full year that the USTOA was under the direction of president Terry Dale, and change was a frequent topic of conversation, both in public and behind the scenes.

“Hopefully, one of the things that I’ve been able to do over the past year is start to make connections between USTOA members and the associates,” said Dale. “[Immediate past chair] John Stachnik wisely began a new associates’ advisory committee, and that was a huge step forward for the industry because, all of a sudden, associates were given a platform with which to share their needs.”

A highlight of the conference was the announcement of the new USTOA board of directors, five of whom serve as the organization’s executive committee. Heading the executive committee as chairman will be John Hanratty, from Travel Impressions. He will be joined by Jerre Fuqua of Travcoa and YMT Vacations; Paula Twidale of Collette Vacations; Dana Santucci, of EF Institute for Cultural Exchange/Go Ahead Tours; and John Stachnik of Mayflower Tours.

The rest of USTOA’s 2012 board of directors include: William Sennott, Ambassadors Group Inc.; Richard Launder, The Travel Corporation USA; Peter Schaefer, Mark Travel Corporation & Affiliated Companies; Harry Dalgaard, Avanti Destinations; Roger Mahil, SITA World Tours; Dan Mahar, Tauck; Bob Drumm, General Tours World Traveler; Ron Krueger, Pleasant Holidays; Scott Nisbett, Globus Family of Brands; and Larry Kwan, Pacific Delight Tours.

The executive committee also presented the results of an annual member survey that showed a generally optimistic view of the coming year. The survey showed that three-quarters of USTOA members were predicting growth in 2012, with 25 percent of those expecting a boom year where sales will grow by more than 10 percent. One surprise in the survey was that nearly half of USTOA members reported that they increased their staffs in 2011, and many reported that they plan to increase staff in 2012, some by as much as 15 percent.

“The findings are somewhat staggering,” said USTOA immediate past chairman John Stachnik. “The fact that our members actually increased staff in 2011, some in the double digits, and plan to do so again in 2012 is simply remarkable in the context of the current economic climate and speaks to the strength of the value of packaged tours to travelers.”

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