Interview with Julie Katz from TourMappers – North American Tour Specialists

Julie Katz is owner and Managing Director of TourMappers North America, LLC, a full-service, international-inbound travel company, selling B2B exclusively. Based in Boston, TourMappers wholesales both FIT and group product throughout the U.S. to international tour operators. TourMappers also has its own small group tour program under the label “American Experiences”.

Julie is a recipient of the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism’s Larry D. Meehan Award, and TourMappers has received the U.S. Travel Association/Brand USA’s Chairman’s Circle Honors award for four years running.

Julie graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a BA in Political Science and interned at the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC before returning to Boston. She established her business in 1987 after working in the local travel industry as a tour guide. Julie was born and still lives in Boston, MA.

Based in Boston with an international staff hailing from France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, UK and of-course the U.S. we are uniquely qualified to service the needs of our clientele. Our flexibility to adapt to customer needs and various market environments, supported by a knowledgeable staff providing informed, attentive service is fundamental to our company credo.

We have 3 departments:

  • FIT: TourMappers fosters product in a variety of self-drive destinations, introducing the international tour operator to new and different regions of the U.S.. Our product extends beyond hotels, providing attractions, excursions, cruises and more. Because of this, we are able to provide innovative and unique land packages. All of our FIT products and services, including self-drives, river cruises, Rail programs and more are available via an XML connection or through a password-protected web-based booking engine. 
  • GROUP: With over 30 years of experience in planning and arranging group tours, TourMappers expertly makes the U.S. accessible to international Tour Operators. Whether it’s a special interest ad-hoc program or a multi-date tour series our knowledgeable staff will arrange the ideal package suited to the specifications of our clients.
  • AMERICAN EXPERIENCES: Our own scheduled, small group tours highlight the culture and flavors of up and coming destinations. Active adults participate in a variety of experiences. Tours are 8 days/7 nights or 9 days/8 nights with pre & post stay opportunities in gateway cities. Passengers stay in boutique 3 & 4 star properties. It’s like an escorted self-drive! 

Our destinations include:

  • Pacific NorthWest Peaks & Pours
  • Great Lakes Explorer, Classic Americana
  • A Taste of Texas & the Two-Step
  • Colorado Mountain Crests & Craft Brews
  • Brew England; Beaches, Bluffs & Beer
  • A Southern Story; Sounds & Specialties
  • Yellowstone’s Winter Wonders, A Snow-Season Safari

As TourMappers is an international inbound travel provider there have been no arrivals since borders closed in March of 2020, but we must maintain operations since our customers (the tour operator) book their clients months in advance since they are traveling internationally. Even though there are no arrivals we still must facilitate both future bookings and cancellations.

Our clients don’t pay till  time of travel so there has been zero revenue. Nevertheless, we must maintain all operations in order to have business when it returns. Most staff is furloughed so existing workload is placed on remaining staff, who are working from home. Planning is difficult as we don’t know when US border will reopen and when each country’s borders will reopen. Also, arrivals will depend on flight capacity as travel resumes. Fewer flights means less business. Hotels in some resort destination may be less inclined to contract room blocks to inbound travel companies due to the decline of international travel and the uptick in domestic travel. For other hotels the opposite is true, especially city hotels. They’re looking for business wherever they can find it so they’re willing to contract for future business. Also, due to the limits placed on capacity at attractions, usual booking procedures and rates may not be in effect at some.

From the international market, the US won’t see a regular stream of arrival till 2022. I believe by 2022 there will be pent up demand, especially for travel to the US as it will be seen as a “covid-safer” destination.  However, it’s doubtful we’ll be back up to 2019 arrival number till flight capacity and routes resume, and that may not be till 2024/2025.

In the immediate I think there’ll be more travel to alternative destinations and accommodation. People will be more inclined to visit secondary destinations, “the great outdoors” and rent motorhomes or, go “glamping.”  Group travel will decline significantly. People may be more inclined to use travel companies/tour operators to book trips so they have an assurance of staying places that are “covid-safe”

We are requiring suppliers to adhere to CDC guidelines, and we’ll bring staff back as borders open but as mentioned above, planning is difficult as our business depends on travelers getting vaccinated and receiving appropriate paperwork, all countries opening borders, and number of flights resuming on all routes.

Learn more about TourMappers on their links below.