Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) was established in 2001 as an organization of premier North American Tour Operators who offer unique products from more than 500 destinations worldwide. From the start, the goal of TAP was to empower Tour Operators from various areas of geographical expertise. TAP aims to fill more scheduled departures, offer guaranteed departures and expand their travel product portfolios. Last year, we acquired TAP and have been on a journey ever since to lead the agency into the future. We focus on staying up-to-date with travel trends, creating innovative travel products and continuing to generate business between Tour Operators and suppliers.
Last month we held our annual conference, TAP Dance. It was our second year back in person after the pandemic. Upon reflecting on the event, we want to share some key takeaways.
A Background of TAP Dance
TAP Dance is a one-of-a-kind conference which is a vital component of our essence. This year was extra special as it was held in Rochester, NY, the hometown of TAP Headquarters.
TAP Dance stands out from other travel conferences because each supplier attendee is grouped into a regional pod. They attend 25-minute focused sessions with each of the TAP Tour Operators. Rather than feeling rushed, each pod has time to showcase their area and learn what is important to Tour Operators.
Importance of setting your attendees up for success
In the weeks leading up to the event, we took a deep dive into making sure attendees were prepared. Our TAP Dance 101 video laid out the conference basics conference. It detailed expectations, the benefits of attending and shared some helpful insights from past attendees.
We created this with the desire to empower our attendees. It was important to us that each person had the tools and knowledge needed to maximize their experience. The gratitude expressed by those who found the video beneficial reinforced why we go the extra mile to support our TAP community.
Power of partnerships between tour operators and suppliers
TAP was built on the foundation of collaboration. Tour Operators have always put aside the perceived competitiveness among companies and developed a model where they can buy and sell from one another. Suppliers have worked hard to collaborate and create new ways to market their region and drive visitation. When these forces come together, you can feel the air buzzing with an energy of profound determination to uncover fresh avenues for industry improvements.
Since the appointments are 25-minutes long, the Tour Operators and supplier pods are able to take the time to catch up. They share personal insights on trends, identify client/visitor desires and discuss the itineraries they are developing. In an industry where we all have the same goal of creating seamless travel experiences, the continued connection between tour operators and suppliers proves to be a key ingredient to success.
Sarah Imes, Tour & Travel Manager of Visit Ithaca was on the Destination on the Left Podcast last year. As a long-time Guild Member of TAP, she discussed the ways that she, as a supplier has benefited from TAP and her experiences of using collaboration to move forward in the industry. Listen to her episode now.
The significance of fun and lightheartedness
Each year, we like to do something creative that showcases our Guild Members. This year, we finished our meals with a round of trivia. Every game had a few questions that highlighted TAP Guild Member destinations and attractions. It was a fun way to show our appreciation towards Guild Members and pique attendee interest in these suppliers. The winners of each game won a Rochester-themed gift which upped the level of competition and participation in the room!
It was evident that participants were having a blast as they headed into their appointments.
Importance of having a host city that’s all in
Undeniably, one of the most important parts of hosting any tourism conference is having a host city that has your back and is ready to share their region with visitors. The positive impression created by a host city resonates long after a conference concludes which can drive future visitation from attendees. Visit Rochester played a huge role in the success of our event. They joined our Tour Operators to discuss upcoming events (such as plans for the 2024 total solar eclipse!). Ambassadors joined us to proudly showcase their home city and ensure that visitors experienced true Rochester hospitality.
Proves the shift in trends
I sat in on a few pod meetings, trying to soak up all that was being discussed. Across all appointments, the pods and Tour Operators were discussing the current travel trends that they have been seeing. All the trends reflected previous research we’ve done on trends this year. For example, some Tour Operators mentioned that travelers have been looking to explore more off-the-beaten path trail destinations as they’ve already seen the major tourist spots. Others were saying that their groups have been looking to take shorter trips and really immerse themselves in a destination rather than spend the majority of time traveling from one city to another.
There’s nothing like reconnecting in person
A major discussion point during the pandemic revolved around the format of future in-person events. Since so many people began working from home, we all wondered whether in-person events would truly return and in what capacity.
As anyone else who attended this event could tell you- there’s nothing like experiencing it in-person. The face-to-face moments between Tour Operators and suppliers was something that is unique to TAP Dance. The energy buzzing around the room, long time friends reconnecting and new business opportunities forming is something that cannot be replaced by a virtual event.
Interested in learning more about TAP Membership opportunities? Head to our website or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about the value that TAP can bring to your organization.