If you’re a tour operator and you still haven’t joined a trade association, then this post is for you. By the end of it, you’ll be absolutely convinced that it’s the next thing you should do.

A trade association is an organisation that was created by and for businesses in a particular industry. For example, the diving industry has PADI and SSI, while the surfing industry has Surfing Australia.

There are trade associations for almost every industry vertical. Usually they are not-for-profit organisations, but increasingly they are becoming privately owned.

Whilst membership to these associations can be pricey, it’s well worth it if you take full advantage of your membership. Here’s how.

1. Stay up to date with industry standards

Trade associations will teach you industry-specific standards that are recognised nationally, internationally, and even worldwide. For example, PADI will advise divers how deep one can go without risking safety.

Your trade association will provide educational training and certification – and may even give you training material to hand out to your employees.

In some industries (like climbing, rafting, and trekking), guides must be certified by one of these organisations before they can start working.

2. Learn new things

Your association will teach you about new trends, tips, and best practices, keeping you on top of important issues that will affect your business (eg. new legislation).

They will usually offer you:

  • Webinars, whitepapers and research reports
  • Networking conferences
  • Charitable events

Conferences gives you the opportunity to learn from your peers. Who knows – you might even be able to find companies to partner with!

3. Take advantage of their big marketing budgets

Because trade associations are usually well-funded, they are always organising special campaigns that benefit your industry. They are dedicated to protecting and advancing the needs of your industry, lobbying on your behalf.

For example,

  • Surf Groms is a Vegemite-sponsored initiative of Surf Australia which aims to teach young children how to surf.
  • PADI supports Project Aware, which raises awareness on environmental issues and reef conservation.

Another advantage is your ability to use the brand of your trade association in your marketing. It portrays a good image of your business because it represents a commitment to staying on top of developments in your industry.

4. Receive professional insurance

Trade associations often offer professional insurance specific to your industry. For example,

Even though it will cost you to join up, Forbes advises that you should think of a professional association membership as an investment in knowledge and your career.

Of course, to truly make the most of it, you need to put some effort in. Get involved in your association and participate in their activities.

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