We constantly receive feedback from high school, middle school, and youth music directors who want to bring their group on an international performance tour, only to be confronted by a familiar set of problems. Whether it is the concerns about recruiting enough performers to travel, the constant fight for approval from school administrators, or the tremendous responsibility that comes with organizing a trip, music directors with hopes of touring often face an uphill battle.
If you’ve never led a performance tour before, it might seem like too much for one person. That's why we created a step-by-step guide for future group leaders that addresses these common problems and offers practical solutions. But before reading our new eBook, Solving Common Issues for Touring Youth Ensembles, there are a few quick stats that might alleviate some of your stress.
1. Touring helps with recruiting
We recently went through our database to examine every group that had traveled with Encore, and some of the initial findings were fascinating. Our research found that the average repeat group was 23.3% larger than the average new group.
There are many factors that play into this increase, but word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the biggest driving factors. In fact, our post-trip survey revealed that 99% of group leaders rated their experience with Encore Tours as either “Good” or “Excellent.” We believe that our performance tours are a transformational experience, as ensembles consistently return home with stronger relationships, increased confidence and musicianship, and a greater appreciation for other cultures.
One of our groups enjoys a stop in Old Town Annecy
2. Experienced group leaders are a fantastic resource
Perhaps not surprisingly, we also found that group leaders that were referred to Encore by a colleague were more than 20% larger than their non-referral counterpart. Our loyal travelers know that we are passionate about providing a one-of-a-kind experience, and they have historically been our strongest advocates. In fact, a recent survey of past group leaders showed that “referral from colleague” was the number one factor in their selection of Encore.
We provide centrally located hotels, high-quality food, knowledgeable Tour Managers, incredible venues, and guaranteed audiences, but that's only part of the Encore experience. Our team believes that paying attention to every minor detail is crucial in making your trip a truly unforgettable experience. That means working closely with group leaders to ensure that their itinerary is perfectly suited to the needs of their ensemble.
We know you may be skeptical about these claims, which is why we recently launched our new Speak to a Reference (STAR) program. If you have any questions about booking your next performance tour and want to hear feedback directly from the horse's mouth, you can speak with another ensemble director who has previously led a trip with Encore. They can let you know what to expect and pass along practical advice they have learned from past tours.
Many of our past group leaders are happy to discuss their experience with Encore
3. Encore always prioritizes the safety of our travelers
As a division of ACIS, Encore Tours is uniquely situated to provide the personal, hands-on assistance that is typically associated with a smaller business, while still leveraging the network and resources that come with a larger company.
ACIS carries $50 million in general liability insurance that covers school districts and teachers on our tours, as well as a $1 million indemnity bond with the United States Tour Operators Association. All participants are also enrolled in an international medical insurance plan coordinated by EuropAssist, our 24-7-365 travel assistance provider. Additionally, we have offices located in London, Paris, Madrid, Rome and other major destination cities to ensure that we have local support if necessary.
Every traveler with Encore Tours is also provided with our Basic Protection Plan, which offers health coverage, program interruption coverage, travel delay protection, and our generous job loss cancellation refund policy.
Our parent company, ACIS
4. Tour Managers make the difference
We take a lot of pride in hiring the most qualified Tour Managers (TM's) to ensure your tour runs smoothly. Encore's TM's are energetic, multilingual, and college-educated. Our TM's are not only well-traveled but also well-versed on every aspect of your itinerary.
Our TM's are extensively trained and carefully selected to fit the needs of your unique ensemble. Encore TM's wear many different hats including commentator, counselor, troubleshooter, and advocate. These individuals make sure that your tour is not only fun, but also educational.
In fact, a recent survey showed that our Tour Managers were rated either “Good” or “Excellent” by 100% of recent group leaders. Having an experienced TM means that you don't have to worry about the administrative and operational side of the tour. TM's handle the tour logistics, which allows the group leader to focus on the music. That translates to better performances and a more enjoyable tour experience.
Your TM is accessible around the clock to provide peace of mind in any situation
5. Consider a “name-brand” destination for your first tour
There are so many amazing musical destinations around the world, however, if you're trying to encourage a healthy group size, you should seriously consider a more popular, well-known destination. For example, the average group size for a performance tour in the United Kingdom is 30% larger than our other international destinations. That figure jumps to 38% if we focus solely on first-time travelers.
That sentiment has been echoed by Brian Dokko, a member of the first-ever group of Encore Tour Ambassadors. As Director of Choral Activities at Long Beach Polytechnic High School and Director of the '49er Choir at California State University, Long Beach, Brian strongly recommends picking a major city for your first performance tour.
“I’ve led tours throughout much of Europe, and my most well-attended tours have always been the typically popular destinations (e.g. Rome, London, Paris),” said Dokko. “On the other hand, my smallest tour (just 23 participants) was to Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and The Czech Republic. Our tour to Eastern Europe was an absolutely phenomenal tour (probably one of my personal favorites), but I’ve learned that most prospective participants are more interested in seeing the more popular cities, particularly if this is their first time abroad.”
There are so many spectacular places to visit on a performance tour, and your Tour Consultant can help determine which destination is ideally suited for your ensemble. However, if you're worried about generating enough interest to run your tour, cities like London and Paris are great options.
The London Eye (also known as the Millennium Wheel)
6. Spain and Germany are excellent destinations for repeat travelers
While we have found that first-time travelers seem to prefer large metropolitan cities like London, Paris, and Rome, that's not necessarily the case for returning ensembles. The average passenger count for trips to Spain is 61% larger for repeat travelers than it is for first-time travelers. Similarly, the average group size for trips to Germany is 51% larger for returning travelers than it is for first-timers. In other words, they typically want something a bit less familiar and conventional. Luckily, we can do that.
Germany has a particularly remarkable musical legacy, especially when it comes to classical music. As the birthplace of Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, and many others, German composers constitute some of the most accomplished and notable figures in music history. Not surprisingly, the country also has some of the most impressive performance venues including the St. Hedwig's Cathedral, Church of the Holy Spirit, and Hercules Hall.
Church of the Holy Spirit in Heidelberg, Germany
Want to learn more about the most common hurdles you may encounter when booking an international performance tour? Please read our free eBook for helpful tips and ideas!