Many years ago, when I was in middle school and went on a class trip, we left on Friday after school and returned Sunday night. We didn’t miss any school, so the school board didn’t have to approve that trip. Many tour operators still work with student groups that only travel on weekends and during the summer months—and often don’t work through the schools at all.
Over the last 10 years, however, we have seen more trips that are taking place during the school year and school hours. This trend has had a big impact on the student travel market and what school boards are requiring:
- Schools are traveling in February and March because students are less likely to get approval from the school board to travel when state-mandated tests are given.
- School boards are more actively searching for information regarding insurance requirements and safety protocols. This means that more tour operators may require documents from suppliers than in the past.
- School boards now increasingly want trips to offer multiple educational experiences. It may not be enough to merely visit one destination. We are seeing requests from school boards who are planning programs that will be spread across multiple days during a travel experience.
- School boards are more inclined to have tougher contracts with tour operators, including cancellation clauses.
As a tour operator or supplier, what can your company do to encourage school boards to approve a trip?
1. Take an active role, providing educational materials to the group leader, including curriculum materials and matching state standards or unique learning opportunities.
2. Partner with a travel insurance/protection provider. Travel protection offers peace of mind. Equally important is the fact that many insurance products offer post-departure benefits designed to protect the students (and tour companies) when on the road.
3. Make certain you have insurance documents and safety protocols at the ready. When a school board approves a trip, it becomes an extension of the school day, and that means most school rules will still be enforced
4. Position your venue/property as student-friendly. Use photos of students in your materials. Designate student-only areas or share procedures that prove to a school board that you know how to work with young people.
There is no reason to panic if you hear a teacher say, “My school board must approve this trip.” Most school boards understand the value of student travel. They simply want to know that motorcoach operators and tour operators understand their responsibility to provide an amazing experience for young people.
Raymond “Bud” Geissler is national group sales manager at Travel Insured International. Before entering the insurance industry, he was a student travel tour operator for 20 years. Geissler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.travelinsured.com.