What is a tour/guide association?

It can sometimes seem like the tourism market is saturated and that there is no place for your business. Other times it can be difficult to know who to reach out to for support. That’s where associations come into play. Designed with tour guides and operators in mind, associations provide a networking space where tourism professionals can access educational materials, new market segments, and development opportunities.

Whether you’re an independent guide or a tour operator (of any size), there is bound to be an association to get into. GANYC (Guide Association of New York City), for example, is focused on training professional guides and offering a database of talent for tour operators. NTA (National Tour Association), on the other hand, provides networking and support services to operators working in any segment of the North American travel market. Whether it’s advertising your tour guide services or connecting with other businesses in the industry, associations can be invaluable resources.

Who can join?

Depending on the focus of the association, each organisation will have different requirements, — but you’re guaranteed to need licensing and certification before gaining access to the group. To become a GANYC member, for example, you must have a valid New York City Guide’s License, and according to Bob Rouse, Editor and VP of NTA, “members are typical only in that they fit into one of five membership categories: tour operator, travel agent, tour supplier (hotel, attractions, tour activities, etc.), destination management organization, and associate (offering a product or service)”.

Benefits for tour operators

Associations offer numerous benefits for tour guides and operators. Below we’ve listed the top four:

1. Access industry discounts

Making industry connections has never been easier. Tour associations bridge the gap between tour businesses and big companies, meaning you can cut costs on expenses such as shipping, insurance, and office supplies. Rouse says: “membership makes sense economically. Besides getting access to the people and information they use to build their business, NTA tour operators get significant discounts on liability insurance and other business expenses”. If you’re sitting by and watching a big chunk of your budget go to third party services, then an association membership could be a good idea.

2. Get even more certified

A given for most associations is that they can help tour operators improve their trade. Most associations hold events and seminars throughout the year so that their members have constant access to development opportunities. These events are a fantastic chance for industry professionals to network, share ideas, and learn from each other. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon a new business partner/idea. In addition to events, tour associations also offer ongoing training throughout the year and can even help you get more tour credentials.

3. Be part of a tourism network

As a tour operator, you know that the industry is all about relationships. Most associations are part of committees that represent the tourism industry, and they are active in helping implement new legislation. Having a dedicated advocate with ties to policymakers can help you, as a tour operator, feel more in control of the industry and keep you up-to-date with the latest news.

4. Be part of an online community

Access to an online database and community platform means tour operators get 24/7 access to colleagues that can help put together a memorable tour. And as an additional bonus, most associations have a directory of their members and services, effectively giving you another platform on which to advertise. Free marketing never hurt!

Where to start

Feeling overwhelmed? Take it one step at a time. The first step, according to NTA, is “to connect with travel and tourism professionals in the community”. While you might know your tours like the back of your hand, there is a lot more to being a successful tour operator. Meet with managers at hotels, restaurants, bus companies, and attractions to discuss potential partnerships and discounts. And at some point you should “connect with a larger community of tour professionals—like NTA—who can offer ideas for growing your business and your knowledge.”

So, if you’re a licenced tour guide or tour operator, then a membership to an association may be exactly the boost you need. Check out what support you have on both a local and national level, and reach out to other business in your region. Becoming part of the wider community could help you take your business to the next level. And, if you’d like a new website to link to on those association databases, then feel free to reach out to Tourism Tiger.


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