As a director, executive director, tour chairperson or tour committee member, you have a significant responsibility in making a decision to tour and perform. By placing arrangements for your concert tour in the hands of experts who can help you make this an incredible musical and cultural experience, you will be able to honor this responsibility with confidence and integrity.
Whether you’re doing this for the first time or have traveled often, you soon will realize that it’s very difficult to compare companies, and that the written page or proposal doesn’t begin to tell you all you need to know or ask. We suggest you consider the following areas and ask the same questions of each company.
1) Company history and experience
How long have the companies you are considering been in business? What is their mix of international and domestic tours? Are they financially secure enough to weather economic downturns or such disruptions as terrorism, natural disasters or epidemics? Have you checked records with the Better Business Bureau or other independent agencies to see how each company is rated?
What do you know about the ownership of the companies you are considering? Are the owners involved in the day-to-day running of the company? If any company you are considering is foreign-owned, are you are aware of liability and fiduciary limitations or how difficult it will be to solve legal problems, including any refunds that are owed you?
3) Proposal content
Are you comparing apples to apples? Be certain that you are being offered the same thing in each of these areas:
- length of tour
- number of nights in each city
- sightseeing entrance fees
- number of meals included
- number of complimentary trips
- number and types of performances
- quality and location of performance venues
- flight schedule or routing
- hotel category and location
There are huge differences within the hotel classifications “three-star,” “four-star,” “first- class” and “tourist-class.” You only can make accurate comparisons if each company is willing to give you precise details (not something hidden in the itinerary text!) and descriptions of proposed hotels. Be aware that some quotations may be based on triple or quadruple occupancy, or may include considerable mark-ups for single rooms.
You will want to work with a company that listens to your particular interests, needs and concerns without applying a cookie-cutter approach to tour design. At MCI, a large staff is at your disposal for regular consultation regarding every detail of your tour, whether artistic or mechanical.
5) Musical expertise
Nothing replaces “been there, done that.” A very fine travel agent may not sense the concerns and nuances or appreciate the details of determining and recommending venues, including such considerations as:
- size of staging area
- need for warm-ups, rehearsals, changing rooms
- availability of toilets
- details of available organs, pianos, local orchestras, rental instruments, chairs, stands, lights, tables, etc.
At MCI, you are able to talk to someone who has actually toured as a performer or conductor. Imagine the difference this will make in how your musical concerns and details are handled!
6) Overseas offices and staff
What do the company’s references say about their overseas personnel? Are they efficient at solving problems? Does the company have offices overseas that are accessible 24/7? Can you verify addresses, locations, contact details?
7) Value for your money
While price is a significant factor in your decision, often the lowest possible price is not the best value. Most travelers, in retrospect, wish they had paid slightly more for a lot higher quality and regret dealing with quality issues throughout their touring experience.
8) Service record
Have you checked references offered by the company? Can the company furnish you with names of directors or tour coordinators near or known to you, so that you can ask about such concerns as: · level of service before, during and after the tour · quality and location of accommodations · details of concert arrangements · publicity and promotion to generate audiences · tour management while on tour · ability to deal with emergencies or changes
Does the company have adequate liability insurance? Are they willing to give you copies of details? Can this company name you or your organization as a third-party liability insured? Is the company bonded? Has any client ever lost money dealing with this company? Does the company include full insurance coverage in their proposal to you, or will this be a hidden and expensive add-on?
10) Tour personnel
Your local Tour Managers may be the key to a successful performance tour. Does your company engage persons who are experienced with musical organizations, fluent in the languages needed for on-site communication, capable of handling daily situations as well as unforeseen crises, familiar with the areas to which you will be traveling, aware of issues regarding border crossings, flexible enough to accommodate the interests of your particular group, sensitive to issues of age or physical limitations? Will your company provide a separate tour escort for each motorcoach?
Are the companies you are considering all members in good standing of various travel and professional associations who demand strict accountability for financial and business ethics? Such organizations include (but are not limited to): ACDA (American Choral Directors Association), ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents), Chorus America, ASOL (American Symphony Orchestra League), SYTA (Student and Youth Travel Association), ASTA (American String Teachers Association) and MENC (Music Educators National Conference).
12) Gut feeling
Do you feel you are being treated with integrity, reliability, professionalism, expertise? Sometimes these intangibles are the most important factors in your decision! You can only determine this by frequent communication with the companies you are considering and by doing your homework regarding all of the above.