SOURCE: United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA)

May 15, 2007 14:16 ET

USTOA Advises: Know Your Travel Company

Why Membership Matters

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 15, 2007 --With summer and the peak travel season coming, it's more important than ever to check out the company you travel with, advises the US Tour Operators Association. One way to determine a company's reliability is to look for membership in a professional association.

However, Bob Whitley, USTOA President, advises that membership criteria differs among associations, especially in the area of consumer protection. "For instance, USTOA membership standards are the most rigorous in the entire travel industry and USTOA is the ONLY travel industry organization that requires each member company to post $1 million in order to reimburse consumer deposits if the company goes out of business.

Rigorous Membership Standards

To qualify for USTOA Active Membership, a tour operator or vacation packager must have been in that business in the U.S. for not less than three years under the same ownership or management. The company must operate tours totaling a minimum annual passenger or sales volume, and supply references from 18 industry organizations. Finally, the company must participate in USTOA's Travelers Assistance Program which among other things requires posting a $1 Million bond for consumer protection.

Membership in USTOA requires that Active Members adhere to a strict code of ethics. One of the most important ethical requirements is truth in advertising, which mandates that members represent truthfully and accurately all facts and conditions relating to tours and travel packages.

"While nothing is 100% infallible," says USTOA President Bob Whitley, "as an organization, we have set the strictest financial requirements in the industry to ensure and demonstrate a high degree of stability and solvency for our members, and consumer protection for travelers. This ensures that when travelers choose a USTOA member, they are selecting a company they can trust."

"Some of our members have also chosen to carry their own additional coverage on top of the USTOA Travelers Assistance Program," notes Whitley. "Nevertheless, the plan should not be construed as a 100% guarantee," he says, adding that for maximum protection travelers should pay for their vacation with a credit card, and purchase travel insurance that covers travel supplier bankruptcy.

For more information on the USTOA Travelers Assistance Program, as well as a listing of USTOA member companies consult the USTOA web site: www.ustoa.com or www.ustoa.travel.