An Introduction to AITO
Formed in 1976, the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) is an
alliance of over 120 specialist travel companies, each dedicated to the provision of quality products, high standards of personal service and consumer satisfaction. The majority of AITO members are small-to-medium-sized owner-managed businesses, but the membership as a whole is very diverse in terms of size, profile and trading history.
While around half turn over less than £3m per annum and about 15% exceed £10m, the membership includes numerous highly-regarded specialists which have operated for over 20 years. Collectively, AITO members carry around 900,000 customers annually and operate to almost every country in the world.
AITO is important as a forum for the exchange of views and ideas between directors and senior managers of companies with similar philosophies and common problems. New members find themselves joining a group of like-minded entrepreneurs who are not only passionate about their businesses and the destinations or activities in which they specialise but who also get a lot of fun out of the travel business.
AITO's great strength comes from the diversity of its membership and the expertise of the respective owners. Together, AITO companies find strength in numbers to purchase services of various kinds, to make their collective voice heard on a range of issues, to promote the association's values and to market the remarkable variety of members' holidays.
AITO is a rather special trade association. Many businesses aspire to join but not all can do so. However, if your company is an established, specialist operator, independent of vertically-integrated groups within the industry and committed to maintaining the highest standards, then we'd like to hear from you.
Summarised, the aims of AITO are:
· To ensure that consumers may book members' holidays with every confidence
· To inform members about important issues of the day
· To encourage higher standards and greater professionalism
· To assist members in marketing their holidays to the general public and to the media
· To encourage members, their clients and suppliers to address
environmental issues and to promote the concept of sustainable tourism
· To ensure that the views and concerns of smaller, specialist tour operators are understood by the regulatory authorities
AITO is the Association for independent and specialist holiday companies. Our member companies, usually owner-managed, strive to create overseas holidays with high levels of professionalism and a shared concern for quality and personal service. The Association promotes the unique range of its members' holidays and encourages the highest standards in all aspects of tour operating. It insists on financial protection for all customers' holidays, provides for its members and represents their interest to government, industry and media.
Applicants for membership are required to satisfy a number of criteria about their status and the nature of their activities, as follows:
1. They should be bona fide tour operators whose business is primarily organised as that of a tour operator contracting with holidaymakers as a principal.
2. They should be able to demonstrate that they are not in a position to derive benefits on a substantial scale from the ownership of travel agencies or an airline or other travel industry related business by either the member, its parent company or another
subsidiary of its parent company.
3. They are not subsidiaries of larger organizations who would qualify for but
have not sought membership of the Association.
4. A significant proportion of the activity of the business amounting to at least £250,000 in annual turnover is attributable to the sale of inclusive holidays.
5. They should have been trading as a tour operator for a minimum of two years (two
sets of annual accounts are required).
6. They should be UK based and their literature/brochures and website should
be produced in English.
7. Their marketing information, whether brochure or web-based, must reflect the high standards expected of AITO members.
8. They should match the general profile of AITO members, most of whom are small-to-medium specialist companies with hands-on management involved in the day to day running of the business. Though AITO's largest members carry over 100,000 passengers per annum they still meet the specialist, hands-on criterion.
9. They should provide full financial protection of clients monies in the event of the business failing. This includes both licenseable (ATOL) and non-licensable turnover including accommodation only. Trust Accounts, other than the Travel Trust Association are not acceptable.
10. They should have public liability insurance with minimum cover of £2m.
11. They should be prepared to abide by the terms and spirit of the AITO Quality Charter and Code of Business Practice.
12. The AITO logo is seen as a kitemark of excellence. Applicants have to satisfy the AITO Council that the quality standards expected are being met.
There are two types of membership- Independent or Invited. Independent members are those tour operators whose share capital is at least 50% owned by directors, their relatives or the employees. Invited members, who only total around 15% of the membership, are those operators who cannot satisfy the share ownership test but whom the AITO Council believe have a similar philosophy and share AITO's standards and values. The precise rights of invited members are set out in the Association's Mem & Arts. but in general terms they enjoy all the rights of independent members other than the entitlement to vote on constitutional issues.