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What Aito means to me E

Bridging the gap between operators, agents and affiliates in the industry, Aito is synonymous with high-quality holidays and best practice. Abigail Healy hears how it has benefited three members

stablished in 1976 as an alliance of specialist, independent operators, Derek Moore, chairman of

the Association of Independent Tour Operators (Aito), explains that while its original aims of lobbying and mutual support are still key today, the association has also come to “represent a range of other key

matters that are important to the travelling public.” These include high standards of customer care, knowledgeable and personal service, good value no matter what the holiday costs, and advocacy for sustainable tourism. The association now counts around

100 independent agents as members too, as well as a number of affiliated

Using her noodle to grow sales to Japan

Carolyn Park, C The World, developed a fruitful professional relationship with Aito operator Inside Japan over bowls of noodle soup. She outlines how co-hosting an event was a success for both parties

We have always organised client events and tried to make them different and appealing for attendees. With an influx of interest in Japan what better opportunity than to team up with our most local Aito operator partner, Inside Japan, and host a casual ramen supper at a local Japanese restaurant in Bristol? Many of the guests had already

made tentative enquiries about Japan. We knew all the Inside Japan consultants had lived and worked in the destination so it made total sense to hand our clients over to

34 27.07.2017

tourist boards and other travel trade suppliers. Moore adds: “In 2017, Aito is a cohesive force that delivers advice, support and mutual marketing opportunities to an exciting range of niche and specialist organisations that share similar values and focus on customer care, whatever the myriad destinations worldwide they promote.” But what does the association

mean to these agent members? Gemma Antrobus, chair of Aito Specialist Travel Agents, says: “We look to Aito specialist operators to deliver sparkling and often unusual holiday ideas to inspire our discerning clients, no matter what world events, airline problems and so

the whole process so much easier. A short presentation with lots of

Carolyn Park

them for the evening. They were able to ask all those detailed questions and get a first-hand perspective on travelling in Japan. At that stage none of the C The

World team had been lucky enough to visit Japan and while we had a good overall knowledge, having the Inside Japan team on hand made

great ideas got everyone thinking about which areas they wanted to visit and the clients loved the fact that their questions were answered immediately. Working alongside Inside Japan for the evening also resulted in a training session of sorts for our team. Such was the positive feedback that we were putting itineraries together the next week and from an attendance of 12 I think all but 4 have now been to Japan – not a bad return for a couple of hours and a bowl of noodles. Some agents

commented that we were “brave” to partner with a tour operator that was very local to us that also takes direct bookings. These were most definitely not Aito agents! The whole Aito ethos of

on throw at us. We see ourselves as a strong partnership that, together, delivers more than the sum of the individual parts. “Aito operators create fully bonded

holidays, and take full responsibility for everything within those holidays by acting as principals, both of which provide important protection to our clients in a world of weasly web trip vendors of dubious quality. Like Aito operators, Aito agents care about standards and high-quality service.” So how does this partnership

manifest in day-to-day life? We hear from three agents each with an example of how their Aito membership has impacted their business.

working together was beautifully demonstrated with this event, and it has resulted in many happy clients having wonderful experiences on their holidays. It was largely down to the detailed planning in partnership between us and Inside Japan – we know our clients well and they know the destination inside out.

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