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Letter from SYTA President

Letter from SYTA President

November 5, 2018

Letter from SYTA President
Justin Shuler
November 1, 2018

The SYTA Board of Directors recently wrapped up a productive face-to-face meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. The opportunity to preview the city of Birmingham ahead of SYTA Annual Conference—as well as the exciting things in store for the SYTA family in Huntsville—was outstanding. August is going to be AUsome! Meanwhile, we continue to affect change.

In the past few months, the Board of Directors has worked diligently to address tremendous issues facing our industry, constantly working toward a better tomorrow. Today, I am excited to write to you, the SYTA Membership, regarding an opportunity for our growth and evolution, which will provide tremendous value to our members and our end users.

SYTA has partnered with the Center for Student Travel Safety to introduce and implement the Certified Student Travel Organization Program (CSTO). This program will provide a pathway for Student Tour Operators to earn (accredited) certification based on a combination of identified areas of importance. These areas include current SYTA Membership requirements—Minimum Student Travelers/Revenue, Accurate Licensing by State, and Organization Insurance among them—and include new areas of focus such as Security Audits, Staff Background Checks, Health Information Management, Emergency/Crisis Planning and Training, and other standards.

Along with focusing on current standards and incorporating new ones, the CSTO Program gives us an opportunity to review past policies such as Consumer Protection. The SYTA Consumer Protection Policy has long been discussed, to find balance with its intent and execution. The CSTO Program provides a solid foundation for addressing Consumer Protection and improving its intended effectiveness. A valid Consumer Protection Plan is a core standard in the new certification program. Thus, the Board of Directors voted to begin the removal of Consumer Protection as a membership requirement.

Removing the requirement as a condition of membership will occur slowly, as we ramp up our efforts to strengthen the overall program. The projected date for ending this membership requirement is June 31, 2019.  This will allow us time to talk with members and provide them with information to replace the current program.  In addition, we will enhance education sessions pertaining to effective business practices and continue working to bolster allowable consumer protection guarantees through the Certified Student Travel Organization Program. We are excited by the opportunity to provide value that is consistent to our members and our end users.

Change is constant! Whether exciting or overwhelming, change is the only mechanism for growth. I am proud to work alongside the SYTA Board of Directors, who continue to keep the growth, health, and safety of the Student Travel Industry in mind. On behalf of that Board of Directors, and our partners in the SYTA Youth Foundation, thank you for your continued support and valuable input.

 

Overview of Change in 
SYTA Active Membership Requirements for Consumer Protection (CP)

After many months of discussion, valuable feedback from member organizations, and a thorough review by iWaldman Consulting & Legal Counsel, it became clear that a change had to be made to the Consumer Protection (CP)  plan requirements of membership.

The SYTA Board of Directors’  intention is NOT to eliminate Consumer Protection altogether, but to work to enhance it with improved education relating to effective business practices, and to ensure that SYTA itself has no liability as it pertains to CP.

The goal is to ensure this is done by removing any mention of a “SYTA” Consumer Protection Plan (SYTA does not have a CP plan….it’s members do/should) and adjust the approved methods of guarantee (as allowed in the CSTO Program). SYTA will work with insurance companies and bonding firms in an effort to provide the best options to members.

The Consumer Protection plan will be a standard in the CSTO Program and will be member driven to reflect the needs of various size member companies. The goal is to have all SYTA member companies certified (CSTO) within three to five years.

The CP options that are approved by SYTA via the CSTO Program that members may offer their clients include (at this time):

  1. Surety Bond that members purchase on behalf of their clients
  2. Escrow Account for Customer Deposits
  3. Bank line of credit or CD – that the member maintains on behalf of their clients
  4. Offer CFAR or other travel insurance as appropriate

All of these plans are managed by the member – they are not managed by SYTA and should not indicate otherwise.  It will be suggested that non-certified members offer CP to their clients based upon their contractual arrangements with their clients – but it will not be a requirement of membership.

SYTA will work with the bond companies to find the best price for the bonds. SYTA will also continue to work with insurance companies to identify insurance plans that may offer additional security for customer deposits.

When SYTA began, a Consumer Protection Plan was a requirement for membership in many of the trade associations of the time.  In today’s challenging business environment, customers expect SYTA member companies to provide more than a form of financial security. They want to know their operators are following safe, professional business practices that are transparent and measurable, and that they are held accountable for maintaining these standards.

The CSTO when it becomes “Accredited” will provide another level of public accountability to the consumer that they should travel with SYTA member companies.  This program will provide value both to certified members and their customers.  SYTA is working with ANSI to accredit the CSTO. For more information, please visit  www.ansi.org.

 

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