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.
Established 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 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 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.