Are there certain amenities that should be included on any group tour that happens anywhere in the world?
I spent a lot of time on tours this summer and fall, and noticed some trends and amenities that I really enjoyed — and others that I missed. It made me wonder if it’s time for some standardization across the industry.
There are some services and amenities that group travelers deserve on any trip they take. So here are my four suggestions for a group travel bill of rights.
1) You have the right to free Wi-Fi.
In today’s world, an Internet connection is as basic an amenity as a hairdryer or a coffeemaker. Although many hotels now offer free Wi-Fi for guests, some still have the gall to charge $10 or more for a day’s worth of access. For tours, this is unacceptable. Travelers are increasingly using the Internet to keep in touch with people at home, and tour operators should accommodate this by making sure the hotels they use provide free Wi-Fi access for their guests.
2) You have the right to water onboard.
It’s important to stay hydrated when traveling, and it can be frustrating for travelers to have to scurry around a destination to find a place to buy a bottle of water. The solution — which I’m seeing more and more these days — is to have water available onboard the tour vehicle. Some tour operators offer water for sale for around $1 per bottle, a solution that is tolerable but not optimal. The best approach is to build the marginal cost of a couple of bottles of water per person per day into the price of the tour.
3) You have the right to a tipping-free trip.
A lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I don’t care: Tipping is the scourge of group travel. Yes, drivers, tour directors and guides all deserve to be well compensated, but why should so much of that compensation be based on discretionary tips from travelers? This custom puts everyone in an awkward situation that is based on an inconsistently applied social contract. It makes end-of-trip farewells uncomfortable. And it can be downright frustrating to try to make sure you have the right amount of cash in the right denominations to tip everyone appropriately at the end of a trip. There’s a simple solution to all of this: Build tips into the price of the tour. There is no excuse for not doing this.
4) You have the right to free time.
There’s nothing more exhausting than a dawn-to-dusk day of touring when you’re supposed to be on vacation. Although the previous generation of group travelers may have enjoyed these forced marches across foreign places, a jam-packed itinerary is a turnoff to most modern travelers. People want to enjoy themselves when they travel and do things at their own pace. To accommodate this, tours must include ample free time, and tour directors should be ready to help people make the most of this time.
If the tour industry can make a commitment to applying these standards across the board, it will make the future of group travel brighter for everyone.