New USTOA Members, New Experiences

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Austin Adventures offers tours to Yellowstone National Park.
Austin Adventures offers tours to Yellowstone National Park.

In 2014, USTOA grew by three new members—Austin Adventures, Down Under Answers and Perillo Tours—and what that brings to the table, according to USTOA president and CEO Terry Dale, is not only “even more trusted options when it comes to planning travel,”
but it also “broadens the scope of experiences that travel agents can provide their clients. Each [new member] offers rich cultural experiences with knowledgeable and experienced professionals and deep roots in a certain region of the world or specific type of travel.”

With that in mind, we reached out to these three tour operators to find out why they think it’s important to be part of an association such as USTOA.

austin adventures
Austin Adventures, which has, as founder and director Dan Austin points out, been operating for more than 40 years and offers adventures around the world, believes that “smaller works better,” and as such its trips offer a 6:1 guest-to-guide ratio. That mentality has made Austin Adventures not only a pioneer, but also highly successful, so why join USTOA now, we wondered. According to Austin, “It was important to join USTOA because we recognize the group’s efforts to promote the highest levels of integrity within the industry.” He also points out that the USTOA membership will “really make a difference with the agents that just have not had the opportunity to work with us. It will be an added layer of comfort they need to recommend to their clients.”

Signature itinerary: “We hear time and time again that our Yellowstone programs—both summer and winter trips—are the best introduction to adventure travel there is,” says Austin. The company’s 6-day Yellowstone National Park, with departures in August and September 2015 (from $2,298 pp), explores the world’s first national park. It takes guests hiking and horseback riding, and sightseeing to some of North America’s most stunning sights, including Old Faithful, Osprey Falls, Elephant Back and Yellowstone Lake. (800) or

perillo tours
Perillo Tours’ president and CEO, Steve Perillo, acknowledges the fact that joining USTOA “adds a level of confidence for agents and consumers,” and offers an “important stamp-of-approval from peers in the travel industry,” but he also points out that being a member affords the company the opportunity “to hang out with your peers as colleagues and friends, instead of just rivals. Ideas are shared and even business projects are launched among long-time competitors.” The company, which has been putting together tour packages since 1945, is known by agents, as Perillo explains, “for their escorted tours to Italy, but fewer agents know that Perillo has a big FIT business to Italy. This includes customized travel from the Alps to Sicily, as well as ad-hoc groups, destination weddings and our new educational division called Learning Journeys.”

Signature itinerary: A new Perillo tour for 2015 is the 9-day A Tuscan Dream (from $2,790 pp), with departure dates March through November. It spends three nights in Rome and four in Viareggio in a seaside luxury hotel; there are visits to Siena, Lucca, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Rapallo and Florence. (800) 431-1515; (there’s a travel agent link at the top of the page)

down under answers
Kirk Demeter, president of Down Under Answers, also gives a nod to that extra layer of security that travel agents get when booking a USTOA member. “We felt that by joining USTOA, we would be aligning with a very strong group representing the best in the world of travel providers, as well as providing even more security to the clients that entrust Down Under Answers—as well as our other brands, Air New Zealand Vacations and Africa Answers—with their trip planning.” The company, which has been operating for more than 22 years and specializes in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands, including Samoa, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands, creates custom trips that can focus on everything from honeymoons to unique eco-adventures, as well as family-friendly vacations and culinary getaways. Although, according to Demeter, the company has established “a stellar reputation,” they believe that by joining USTOA, travel agents just learning of them will feel comfortable and secure, “even if they had not previously dealt with us.”

Signature itinerary: Loran Sullivan, the company’s marketing & sales assistant, points to Australia as an example of what Down Under Answers’ destination specialists can put together for travel agents’ clients. “A first-time visitor to Australia often has an idea of the iconic destinations they want to see—Sydney Harbour, the Great Barrier Reef and Ulura (Ayers Rock). This is a very popular itinerary for visitors to follow as it offers access to these three iconic attractions, giving visitors a taste of what Australia has to offer, from the big city to the rich Aboriginal culture and the natural wonder of the reef.”