Educational travel blog
January 24, 2014
Part one of this two-part series focuses on all those student travel companies out there, and what sets passports apart from all the others.
passports is owned and operated by Dr. Gilbert Scott Markle, known in “stutrav” circles as one of the forefathers of student group travel as we know it today. Employed as a tour manager (courier) for a large group travel company during summers when he was a college student himself, he then became a professor of philosophy at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. He took his own students on educational tours to Europe. An idea was born! All of those other companies located in Massachusetts (except for one) are either spin-offs of passports, or their principles were trained by Markle and his colleagues during student travel’s “heyday” in the 1970s and ‘80s.
You’re referring to the “budget companies” who are not really our competitors, per se. This is because our product is somewhat different from theirs, and our company is somewhat smaller. Some of the very large companies have an extremely large volume of travelers each year and they offer other programs in addition to group tours (such as exchanges, semesters abroad, au pair programs, language schools, and more). As a result, their hotel properties may range from 3-and-4-star properties (just like ours) all the way down to a 1- or 2-star property, often located far outside city centers. Basically, you don’t know which type of hotel you’re going to get with those guys, or how far you’ll have to travel each day and night to get into and out of the city. But passports consistently uses only 3-and-4-star properties, and always in a central location.
Similarly, sometimes we hear that their “student rate” flight bookings may result in undesirable routings. Going to London from Atlanta? Piece of cake, right? Nope! With student rates, you may very well go from Atlanta to someplace stateside like Chicago, then to Amsterdam and then London. Or, there will be extra-long layovers on connections. passports relies on non-student-rate group bookings, and we do our very best to book as direct a routing as possible. Obviously during the height of the travel season, it may be necessary to have one connection in Europe, but we do our utmost to avoid Stateside connections. One connection with us, versus two, (or three!) with that big, huge company!
Finally, there are the add-ons. Other companies incentivize their tour directors to “sell” optional excursions to places like Windsor Castle and Versailles while on tour, rather than simply allowing participants to purchase optionals ahead of time. With passports, all optionals are included or purchased in advance. We also pay a higher fee for meals so that American students get an authentic, quality, fulfilling meal (you won’t get 5 nights of chicken 'n’ fries with us) and there’ll be no need to supplement “dinner” with a stop at a fast food restaurant for those teenage boys with big appetites (which means, bringing extra money for meals that are supposed to be sufficient, but aren’t!). In short, you get what you pay for. Add it all up after the tour, and you probably will pay around the same amount in the end, after all the extras are purchased while on tour. Who wants the added pressure?!
Conversely, our more-equally matched competitors generally have prices somewhat higher than passports. Why? Unlike the aforementioned comparison, you’ll get more or less the same product from our true competitors as you will with passports. But their prices are higher because they are based in a big city like Boston or Baltimore, have higher overhead costs and a higher personnel “turnover”, and they may have investors (sometimes European ones!). There are no investors at passports breathing down our necks, for starters. We’re American owned. Located an hour outside of Boston, we own the building at our headquarters and we have a very low turnover of personnel. Employees stay at passports - they enjoy working here, and it shows in personalized service and attention to detail that’s unmatched in the student travel industry. Keeping our costs down means we can sink more of your students’ hard-earned money into the trip itself. Our prices are still usually lower than the competition’s, often by a couple hundred dollars per person.
Coming up in Part 2: Flexibility and Personalized Service
passports Educational Group Travel partners with teachers across the United States to provide high-quality educational travel experiences to their students. Educational tours visit destinations around the world - primarily France, Italy, England, Spain and Costa Rica - at low, guaranteed prices.
7 Midstate Drive Suite 102
Auburn, MA 01501