Don't put that deposit down on your next tour before you read this!

If you’re like most people, planning a trip starts with saving your hard earned money. After you have found a destination, you might be required to spend all of the money that you have saved on a tour or river cruise that can be as many as 18 months away. Your thoughts then transition to what you will wear and all the delicious food you will be eating.

Now what if I told you there was a risk that you, are probably overlooking… Have you ever thought about what would happen if that Tour Operator, that now has your hard earned money, went BANKRUPT?? I mean 18 months is an awfully long way away. Are you starting to get nervous.

Please know that our purpose is to inform, not to scare you. We hate to admit that this happens in our industry, but yes this is an actual risk that is taken by many uninformed travelers across the world every year. Luckily there is an association that cares about your money just as much as you do. It’s called the United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA). Let me explain what I mean.

WHAT IS THE USTOA: Since 1972 The USTOA’s chief goal has been to help protect the consumer against losses arising from bankruptcy, insolvency or cessation of business of an Active Member of the association. Each member is required to have a $1 Million bond that protects their customer’s travel investment in the event of financial distress. Like the FDIC for banks, this allows customers a piece of mind knowing that their tour operator upholds the travel industry’s highest standards and in the event of financial distress the customer is covered.

This means that the USTOA $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program protects consumers for up to $1,000,000 in deposits and payments for tours or vacation packages in the event of a USTOA Active Member bankruptcy. You also get the partnership among the members of the organization to help one another in the event of an emergency. During the Iceland volcanic eruption in 2010, many of the members worked together to get their travelers to safety.

We do want to note however that while the USTOA protects consumers from Tour Operators that experience financial distress, this by no means covers the consumer in the event that they have to cancel their tour due to their inability to travel. There are travel insurance options that do, but it is not covered by the USTOA. I will be sure to talk about this more in a future blog post.

In the end it is very easy to find out if the company that you are traveling with is backed by the USTOA. Simply look for the USTOA logo on the Tour Operator’s website.

And that is it! If you book your trip with a Tour Operator with this logo on their sight, or on this list your money is coveredby the USTOA Travelers Assistance program.

So next time you are planning a group trip, look for the logo and sleep a little easier because you need someone that cares as much about your hard earned money as you do!

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