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Conquering Initial "Pre-Tour Contact"

My next tour (Madrid, Cordoba and Seville) is starting in just a few day’s time. The past month, since my last tour ended, has been a good time for getting some preparation work done to ensure the tour runs as smoothly as possible. I thought I would run through a few things to do with pre-tour contact, as we usefully call it. I am hoping this will be useful for those travelling in the next few months, especially if it is your first time as a Group leader. Apologies in advance for the lack of jokes but it is a pretty dry topic and you might well be probably still chuckling from last week’s escalator based comedy…..I am.

In general you can expect to hear from your Tour Director (TD) anywhere from 7 to 30 days prior to your tour beginning. This might seem like quite a spread of time but it all depends on the TD and what they are up to. Some TDs will be busy leading another tour, or doing different things (we’re an eclectic bunch). If you have something specific that you really wish to discuss with your TD prior to the tour then let your Tour Consultant know and they will pass along the message. In most cases, even seven days prior to the tour is a good amount of time to sort things out – most TDs will seek to get in touch as early as they can, we all understand the benefit.

As a Tour Director, I will be sent information about one month before the start date which gives me the email address of the Group Leader (that’s you), flight information and hotel information. The first part of the pre-tour contact is all about getting to know one another and getting a feel for what the group make up is going to be. If I have more than one Group Leader on the tour then I like to get each of them hooked up to a group email so we can share information about the tour, your group and any free time activities that might be relevant.

Paper Conversations bubbles

Marc Wathieu/Via Flickr

All Tour Directors approach things in a different way, the important thing is that they are all required to make contact before a tour. When I began touring in 1993 there was hardly ever any pre-tour contact. We might be encouraged to call a Group Leader at home a few days before the tour but, in general, we just met groups at the airport and took it from there. Touring was as different then as it was the same. The big stuff hasn’t changed (a group of people looking to enjoy themselves and experience something different). However, there were always a few surprises based on the confused delivery, or receipt, of information and these had to be dealt with in the early days of the tour. Now, things are so much smoother. Group Leaders can turn up with a clear idea of what the plan is, how things will break down and of any particular tricky days that need to be negotiated. Most of the pre tour contact is done by email but some TDs will use Skype (some have been known to speak to the whole group before a tour) others might join in any Facebook page you have for the tour.

So, your Tour Director will contact you and introduce themselves and the tour in general. I like to send an outline of the itinerary with as many times as I can put in. This allows the Group Leader to start plotting how they best wish to use free time. I would, therefore, like to end by making a plug for a response to this initial email. We all appreciate that teachers are busy, especially those taking June tours as we contact you in May towards the end of the school year. However, just a quick reply to let us know you got the message is all we need to stave of loneliness. Even if it is just a short “got your message, very busy right now but will be in touch soon…” sort of thing.

Next week I shall move on to some of the specifics of pre-tour contact and what is usually covered…..

What are some pre-tour questions you have?  Is there a method of communication that has best worked for you?

Flickr Photo via Jonathon Narvey, Sekimura

(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Tour Director Paul Mattesini, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)

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