SYTA – Your Trusted Guide for Performance Travel

Tom Merrill • April 2023Travel/Festivals • April 2, 2023

Who do you trust? 

When you’re wondering about what uniforms to purchase, the best step-up instrument for that promising musician, or the piece of music that will provide outstanding growth opportunities for your ensemble—who is your “go to” resource?

For years, when my wife and I have been faced with a major purchase—like recently with a new dishwasher—we’ve consulted the reviews at Consumer Reports. We’ve very rarely been disappointed when taking the advice from that publication, and more often have been overwhelmingly delighted.

So, when you’re planning a performance tour for your ensemble, where is a good place to start to determine who you can depend on? Who is going to leave you and your students feeling overwhelmingly delighted? That first step to a trusted guide might lead you to the Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA).

SYTA is an international organization that consists of primarily two category groups who are key to the success of your performance tour. One category—the one I currently fall under as a travel consultant—are the student tour planner companies that work with you to create your experiences. The second category are the many hotels, restaurants, attractions, and similar vendors who are included in the travel plans for your group….the actual activities, places, and meals that your group will experience.

Recently I attended the annual SYTA convention in Washington, D.C.—the first time we had been together in person since 2019. With over 900 travel professionals in attendance, to say it was like a long-overdue family reunion was an understatement. And even though in the workaday world of student travel many of us are business competitors, the camaraderie felt during the event reminded me that—at the end of the day—we are all on the same team, working to create high quality, memorable experiences for young people. It’s a team you can rely on in an industry that has seen the unthinkable over the course of the past two years but has gratefully bounced back. Time and time again during the conference, when I would talk with fellow travel planners the same report seemed to echo; student groups were traveling, and it felt good being productive with a returning sense of “normal” again.

In many ways it was the strength of SYTA that helped hold the student travel industry together, and that same strength is what can benefit your travel vision for your ensemble. We help and support each other, we hold ourselves and each other accountable to a higher standard of quality and business practices, and we constantly work to improve and evolve the industry to best meet the needs of young travelers.

The executive director of SYTA is Carylann Assante, and I asked her why working with SYTA members is important and beneficial to music directors not only in their choice of travel planners, but also in relation to the content of their itinerary plans. Besides the commitment to the advancement of the industry and professional development of its members—both of which benefit the overall quality of student tour experiences—there were several tangible reasons.

SYTA operators can access special rates and travel products for their clients, thanks to the long-term relationships they build and bulk purchasing contracts they arrange. Put plainly—they can often save you money and create special opportunities beyond what you might normally experience. 

Their members stay educated and aware of trends, issues in the travel industry, and conditions specific to student travel that can affect the details, quality, and costs of your student travel experience. High on that list currently are the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry—particularly the shortage of workers in the hospitality field and motor coach drivers as those areas continue to recover and rehire while managing the tidal wave of travel demand. An additional outcome of the past two years has been an increased focus on health and safety training and the value of travel insurance options for student travelers.

An outgrowth of SYTA is Teach & Travel magazine, whose website has a new look and dedicated content for traveling educators like you—providing a comprehensive resource center for educators and administrators who plan, authorize, and implement group student travel. They are committed to helping educators understand the issues, trends, and insights into the social and educational benefits of student travel throughout the world.

It is a significantly different world with many changes that have rapidly taken place. The tour you may have taken in 2019 will not be the same in 2023 in terms of content and cost. The great news is that SYTA members are there as a trustworthy partner to help you navigate these new waters and continue to create successful and memorable experiences for your young musicians.

Tom Merrill has over 30 years’ experience as a music educator, festival organizer, and travel planner. He is a travel consultant for Bob Rogers Travel.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!