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TAP Continues to Grow

Travel Alliance Partners, the innovative consortium of professional tour operators founded in 2001, has seen rapid growth in its nearly 15 years and is set for further advancement in 2016 thanks to upgraded technology and an expanded network of partners throughout the tourism business.

Better known as TAP, this organization was started as a cooperative endeavor among several different tour operators, that thought there could be benefit in being able to buy into and sell each others’ products. The idea caught on, and the partnership has now grown to include tour companies throughout North America and offers trips to destinations across the country and around the world.

Each member company is a partner and owner of TAP, and each brings its own business profile and individual strengths. Most TAP tour operators specialize in travel to a certain region — American states, Canadian provinces or international destinations — or a specific interest area in travel, such as sports, history or outdoors.

Each of these members makes its catalog of tours available to the other partners, which are able to sell space on those tours to their own customers. This allows each member to offer its local customers access to a wide variety of expertly designed tours. At the same time, the trips they have created are offered by other TAP members, giving them market penetration that wouldn’t be possible outside of the partnership.

The most popular of these tours are offered as a special series known as Guaranteed Departures. These trips operate from the first passenger booked, regardless of how many more people sign up, so customers don’t have to worry that their trip will be canceled due to lack of interest.

“It’s all of us working together that makes the TAP network special,” said executive director Stefanie Gorder. “TAP is about taking business to a different level. We work together to cross-promote new destinations and new programs. We’re all working together to build business, and when we all come together in unity, everyone’s business grows.”

New Web Presence

Among new developments this year for TAP is a totally redesigned website, which offers a number of powerful options for group leaders.

“Our new website — — showcases our Guaranteed Departures by TAP,” Gorder said. “It has been met by rave reviews because it is so easy to maneuver. You don’t have to look at four different websites to find what you’re looking for.”

The new site showcases all the Guaranteed Departures as well as other scheduled tours and some of the custom products available to travel planners. It is updated in real time as partners introduce new programs and departure dates.

“We have product being uploaded daily,” Gorder said. “So just because you’ve tapped into travel once shouldn’t stop you from coming back again next week to look at new opportunities.”

Gorder said the new website is helping to turbocharge its TAP Tour Wrap, an existing program that allows professional travel sellers and even group leaders to showcase the entire inventory of TAP tours on their own websites.

“We can offer that complimentary to any travel professional that has a website,” she said. “They place a link on their homepage that takes people directly into our system. But it looks like the travel leader’s site and not the TAP site, so they never lose their clients.

“If a bank wants to make some money on three or four people who want to attend SpecTAPular [the organization’s annual special event tours], the travel coordinator can sell the trip to just those three or four people. They can offer the world to their customers, and all of the leads go back to them.”

An Emphasis on Education

In addition to offering online access to its tour catalog, TAP presents a number of other opportunities for group leaders to connect to its products. One of the most popular has been TAP Into Travel: Tuesdays at Two, a weekly webinar series. During these virtual conferences, TAP partners showcase specific destinations and tours to group leaders seeking information on those areas.

Going forward, Gorder said, those webinars will offer a greater variety of educational content to the audience.

“We’re finding that having general tour information is great, but our travel professionals are asking for educational opportunities,” she said. “They want to know how to make more money through their group tours and how they can better take advantage of Guaranteed Departures.

“The webinars happen every Tuesday. So two of them each month are going to have an educational focus. We find that our attendance goes up when we do the educational programs, and that’s what people are asking for.”

Each of the webinars is recorded, and the entire back catalog of sessions is available on the TAP website.

Looking to Grow

In the coming year, as TAP celebrates its 15th anniversary, the organization is expecting to continue its growth momentum in a variety of ways.

“You’re going to see a lot more from us in terms of social media and blog campaigns,” Gorder said. “You’re going to see TAP in the marketplace a lot more because we’re getting smarter about the way we engage the marketplace.”

The partnership itself is also in growth mode. TAP expanded to 32 members this year with the addition of Maxima Tours, an Ohio-based company that specializes in tours to Malta, among other destinations.

Gorder hopes that the special business proposition of TAP will continue to attract other high-quality tour operators.

“We are looking to grow in 2016,” she said. “We’re seeking like-minded tour companies and encouraging them to look toward becoming part of the TAP partnership.”

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.