Travel Advice - The United State Tour Operators Association
If you are considering a tour, you should read our article on evaluating tour operators before you sign-up with a tour operator. We recommend that you book a tour through a travel agent or directly through the tour operator.
The question of the financial stability of the tour operator is one that should be top of mind before you pay a deposit or for the whole tour. While most tour companies are reputable, these are trying economic time and travelers should evaluate the financial integrity of any company with which they are going to spend a substantial amount of their hard earned dollars.
Unfortunately, most tour operators (except for the mega-corporations) are small, privately held businesses and it is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate their financial stability or staying power.
However, tour operators accredited by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) may be the type of provider that can lessen your uncertainty. The USTOA recently celebrated its 40th year in the business of "ensuring integrity in tourism" (and this catchphrase is their motto).
The USTOA is a trade association for tour companies that requires each member to submit to a stringent evaluation process that includes providing references from travel and financial organizations. The member companies of USTOA are responsible for the majority of tours and vacation packages sold by travel agents in the United States. The companies belonging to the USTOA provides tours on a worldwide basis.
Member tour operators belonging to the USTOA must meet minimum time in business and specific ownership requirements. Perhaps best of all from the travelers perspective, member companies must participate in the $1,000,000 Travelers Assistance Program and carry a minimum of $1,000,000 professional liability insurance.
If you are planning on buying a tour from an operator who belongs to the USTOA, you will have helped to reduce your risk and ensured that you will be traveling with the most responsible members of the travel services community.
By the way, at their website, the USTOA provides a map interface where you can select where you want to travel and they will provide you with information on their members who provide tours in the areas of interest.
Finally, remember that financial concerns are only one on the many questions you should ask potential tour providers. As noted at the top of this page, you should read our article on evaluating tour operators before you sign-up with any company providing travel services.If you need to find information about Destinations or other Things Travelers Need To Know, try Googling ThereArePlaces.