With so many school tour operators vying for your attention these days, identifying the reliable from the negligent is easier said than done.
So, what does make a reliable school travel provider?
After more than 30 years' experience in the business, we’ve come to know the industry inside out. Here are the key questions you need to ask when considering booking with your next tour operator:
Question 1: Do they have regulated safety procedures in place?
The most important aspect of any school tour is ensuring the safety of the students and staff throughout the trip. Tour operators who offer the flexibility of a 24 hour helpline understand that many factors can affect the tour at any given time and they're able to give an immediate response if a situation arises.
"Using the 24 hour assistance – excellent response when our Eurostar train was cancelled. Within an hour the ball was rolling and hotel and evening meal sorted. Educational visits were suggested and shortly after that we knew that we had seats for the following day. I was very impressed by your service."
Ossett Academy, Paris on WST
Another indicator to look out for is that the tour operator should have frequent inspection visits and safety audits. WST's latest audit was in February 2015 with Argent and for the 5th year running we’ve had no recommended improvements to the way we control our safety management.
Question 2: Do they have the right staff?
A reliable tour operator will comprise of great staff who provide excellent customer service at every stage of contact. Here at WST we pride ourselves on our staff's level of professionalism which allows us to consistently provide an exceptional service.
"Excellent service, helpful throughout planning and when a member of staff was taken to hospital."
North Durham Academy, London on WST
Our staff's passion for travel and enhancing students' education by allowing them to learn through experience is second to none and is highlighted by our willingness to go the extra mile and delight our customers whenever possible.
"I would just like to send a message particularly highlighting the work of Carole Burrows in helping make the trip a success. Her ideas, assistance and organisation as well as her long suffering patience were particularly appreciated. It is because of the fact that I know I can implicitly rely on people such as Carole that I will be returning to WST for any future school trips."
Thorpe Hall, Berlin on WST
However above all, our 30 years of experience in the educational tours industry means that we have one of the most knowledgeable teams around and we can offer you expert advice at every stage of the tour process.
Question 3: Do they follow industry guidelines?
For a school tour operator to be dependable, it's essential that they follow the industry guidelines. If you’re not sure whether a tour operator adheres to them or not, look out for widely recognised accreditations on their website.
Here at WST we boast accreditations from ABTA, ATOL, LOtC, IIP, STF and CSE, so you can trust that you’re in safe hands when booking with us.
"The mission, vision and values of the company clearly focus on customer service and all staff share the desire to fully understand what the customer needs and then to deliver it."
Extract from a recent Customer Service, Excellence assessment of WST
To ensure we are one of the most reliable school tour operators in the industry, we offer clear and frequent communication right from the start in order to deliver the best possible service. We aim to create long lasting relationships and at WST the customer is at the heart of everything we do.
"I have lead over 20 tours abroad during my career and can say that WST is the most professional, helpful, committed company I have had the pleasure of dealing with."
Framwellgate School Durham, Paris, July 2015
"This was our first trip with WST and it was so much smoother and more efficiently organised than with other companies we have used in the past."
Bishop Heber High School, London, June 2015
"Flawless organisation of the trip, both activities and accommodation were superb, both students and staff really enjoyed it."
Saint Edmund Arrowsmith, Paris, May 2015