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TAP Alliances Utilizes New Marketing Tools

Now in its 14th year, the groundbreaking Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) organization is continuing to innovate and grow with new partners, new destinations, new marketing initiatives and new ways for travel suppliers and travel buyers to take advantage of its unique strengths.

TAP was established in 2001 as a cooperative endeavor among a number of tour operators that saw potential benefits in being able to buy and sell each other’s products. They soon found that the benefits were great, and the organization has since grown to include 31 tour operators.

Each member company is a partner and owner in the organization, and each brings its own strengths. Most TAP tour operators specialize in tours to a certain region, among them American states, Canadian provinces and exotic international destinations, or a special interest in travel.

Because TAP members make their tours available to one another, each partner is able to sell its trips to travelers around the country and can offer a broad range of expert-designed tours to their local customers. The organization also offers a series of Guaranteed Departure tours, which operate from the first passenger booked, regardless of how many more people sign up.


Power of Partnership

The opportunities created by TAP’s unique network of expertise benefit more than just the tour operators. Travel buyers can take advantage of the organization’s structure, as can tourism destinations and travel suppliers, who are known to the organization as Preferred Professional Travel Providers (PPTPs).

TAP is promoting those benefits this year with a new marketing campaign.

“We’re very excited about our new initiatives this year,” said Kevin Murphy, general manager of Sports Leisure Vacations and president of TAP. “One is called the Power of Partnership. It’s a new collateral piece that we started distributing at NTA and ABA [American Bus Association]. It gives an overall picture of TAP and how we work, and how the operators work together with our PPTPs, and how they can fit in with TAP for our overall success. That’s been very helpful for us.”

The eight-page Power of Partnership booklet gives readers details about how TAP works and how they can get involved with the organization. Special sections outline the benefits for tour operators, PPTPs and travel buyers, with testimonials from partners and customers and information pertinent to each category. The Power of Partnership also outlines the organization’s Guaranteed Departure program, as well as other trips that are run as scheduled departures or customized group tours.


Strategic Growth

Because the partnership benefits so much from a network of regional tour experts, TAP has begun to focus on strategic growth as well.

“We’re concentrating on identifying certain geographical areas where we feel like we’re a little underrepresented,” Murphy said.

To that end, TAP added two new partners this year: Oregon West Tours, which specializes in trips throughout the Pacific Northwest, and Let’s Go Travelin’, which brings an expertise on travel in the American South.

Murphy said the organization may continue to broaden its base and add more partners in coming years.

“We just had a strategic planning session in Cottage Grove, Oregon, where we discussed whether there’s a sweet spot that exists for TAP in terms of the number of tour operators,” he said. “We’ve generally been running between 30 and 40, and that seems to work well for us. It depends on the mix, how many are receptive or retail or have a business model based on group leaders. We’re looking for good, solid companies with diverse products that complement what we’re already offering.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.