School Tours of America Celebrates 20 years
Creating Travel Experiences That Change Lives
by Kevin Derrick
School Tours of America continues to celebrate our 20th Anniversary, as we officially turn twenty this August. We have been asked so many times this year, “Has this been the best tour season we have ever experienced in the twenty years of STA?” Thousands of our travelers this spring have certainly responded with a resounding YES! And while we have all continued to experience an abundance of challenges throughout this year, it has been a joy to see so many happy travelers thrilled to be enjoying their experience of a lifetime touring the historic East Coast.
And as we commemorate our 20th year, it is a perfect time to take note of several important observations as we move forward together.
First, along with many on our Team, I am charged with telling our STA story in a way that inspires pride in the minds and hearts of our fabulous customers and amazing STA team. That story, about our perseverance through the pandemic, our values, and our future, doesn’t just set us apart from our competitors; it also offers a compelling reason for our current clients, vendors and team members to continue to grow with STA and for new group leaders to pursue traveling with us.
Second, it is true that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive crisis in our lifetime. After strategically overseeing refund mechanisms that were fair for travelers, groups, and communities, we began to rethink educational group travel. We moved quickly to keep people safe with our proprietary, industry leading TripCARE travel system, as we turned our attention squarely to the future and how we can serve our groups as the desire to travel increased dramatically.
The pandemic could have been an excuse to put off hard decisions. Instead, we confronted the tough questions facing our business and our industry. To put it plainly, we didn’t battle our way through this crisis together only to go back to the way things were before. While other companies took the easy way by choosing bankruptcy, minimized staffing, and leaner operations, STA, along with our loyal client base, sacrificed and came out the other side of the pandemic together – with stronger operations, even better trips, and more committed partnerships.
That’s why, even amid the depths of the pandemic, we made historic “people-first” decisions, like allowing participants a late enrollment period for our full refund program to give confidence to travel. STA supplied an extra complimentary “medical chaperone” during our return to travel last year, giving needed confidence to group leaders and parents. And we have helped large and small groups alike with our traveler centric approach. In every case, our desire was not to follow the mistakes of the other companies, but instead, to blaze the trail by providing the best travel programs possible with the highest level of support, while staying true to our core values of creating life changing travel experiences together.
Each of these actions sent two unmistakable signals to anyone paying attention:
- We are committed to doing the right thing, even when it is challenging and difficult. We are a leader, not a follower. And,
- Now is the time to tell our story in a new and compelling way.
Our STORY is really the story of group leaders who believe in who we are and what we do – together.
WE CREATE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THAT CHANGE LIVES.
This mission is at the heart of what we all do – every single day.
And as we celebrate 20 incredible years, we are thankful for our entire STA family of travelers, whether you have been here for 20 years – or 20 days. Together, we look to the future, to build and share this amazing story together. A story that is continuing to be shaped – by you!
Yes, this has been a fabulous tour season. And an amazing 20th Anniversary.
But the story is not over – and the best is yet to come.