You’ve heard me extol the virtues of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) in this space before. But I simply can’t overstate the importance of this new business model to the travel industry and the end user alike. When a program sells out two years in a row because of the participation of my TAP partners, I have to believe we’re doing something right!
Case in point: the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup. In 2010 we reached our limit of 50 passengers on August 27, twenty-eight days before the tour was scheduled to depart. Five TAP partners contributed to that number, and one even ended up with a waiting list. So we got a head start on this year’s roster, which reached capacity in early March – a full seven months before the scheduled starting date!
Granted, the Buffalo Roundup is a popular event. No fewer than 14,000 people attended the annual rounding up, sorting and vaccinating of these magnificent prehistoric beasts last year. If there was more space available in the Black Hills of South Dakota we’d add another coach. As it is we are running two coaches this year (the other is a pre-formed group coaching from Illinois), and have booked an entire hotel! We’ve already opened up registration for next year’s roundup (Sept. 22-27) so if you missed out this year, book early!
There is more to TAP than just filling coaches, however. By working together, buying and selling tours, it not only enables the 38 partners to offer hundreds of departures worldwide, it also frees up personnel to develop new destinations and – in my case – explore possibilities for new Vanishing Trails Expeditions. We’ve added two new programs this year: Bleeding Kansas (Oct. 15-21) and the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tour (Sept. 7-11) and I’ll be posting information on next year’s El Camino Real soon.
As much as I like leading tours, there is a certain thrill to exploring new historic stories and places to share with my sojourners. As a small company, it isn’t easy to find the time to develop new programs. As TAP matures and fills more and more needs for its Partners, we in turn can develop new programs and offer more departure dates to our travelers. It’s a win-win situation!
Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.