You have made the decision to offer a study tour to your students – fantastic! It takes a motivated teacher to find the additional time in their working life for the planning process and to then use their own holidays to escort a group of students overseas.
Most schools will require you to have three quotes from various tour companies. The general rule will then be to select the cheapest quote. However, not all tour quotes are made equal and it will be often hard to discern the differences when you don’t know what you are looking for.
As in life, you get what you pay for. Sometimes the budget option may be the best fit for your school. However, there is a difference between a budget tour and a quote that actually omits vital travel services. Often this will mean students on tour are expected to fork out additional money that they were not prepared for.
So, what should you be looking for? Firstly, check if the quote includes the basics, such as the airline taxes and fuel surcharges that apply to international fares. Will the group be travelling with a reputable and reliable airline? Are you flying the most direct route with minimal transit time?
In terms of accommodation, what style of accommodation is included? What is the maximum number of students per room? Are there private bathroom facilities? Is free wi-fi included?
Check how many meals are included and if water and soft drinks are priced in.
Has tipping been included? We have been told stories of students having to gather together spare money on tour to tip their local guides and drivers.
Does your package include a tour manager? If not, the day to day responsibility of managing the logistics of the tour falls to the teachers. If you have a tour manager, it will allow the teachers to focus on the pastoral care of the students.
What is the final price of the tour? Check for a disclaimer in the quote in regards to a possible recalculation of the tour price based on exchange rates at time of final payment. Also check when final payment is due and what the cancellation penalties are for participants withdrawing from the tour.
Then there are the more intangible aspects of planning your tour that can make your experience easier or more difficult and time consuming.
What kind of on the ground support can the tour operator provide? If you are dealing with a small Australian operator or an individual travel agent, they can’t help you when you are on the other side of the world. A smaller operator does have lower overheads but they cannot offer the resources of a larger company with its own international offices.
How knowledgeable are the staff working on your tour? Do they have a background in education or understand the syllabus? Have they travelled on the tours before and have a detailed knowledge of the cities you are visiting?
How timely is the communication with the operator? If it takes them more than a few days to get back to you initially, once they have your business you can only imagine how much longer it will take to get a response.
Will the operator come to you for a pre-tour planning meeting, information session and/or pre-departure meeting? Will the operator assist with visas where required? Do they provide assistance with the compilation of your require risk management documentation? All of these factors should be carefully considered when selecting your tour operator.
We have a handy guide that can assist this comparison process – accessible via the link below. And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.