The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) has devised a one-off promotion dubbed ‘AITO Next Generation’, to encourage entrepreneurs to enter the world of specialist tour operating.

The promotion is designed to attract new start-ups and fledgling specialists alike and to reinforce that AITO is an association which encourages and backs both high-quality delivery and best practice.

Similar to the TV programme Dragon’s Den, candidates will pitch to AITO’s Council, made up of some of the best specialist operators in the UK, to win one year’s free Protégé membership.

Throughout August, start-up and fledgling specialists are invited to apply for a place in the promotion by submitting their business plan.

In September, selected candidates will be invited to present their pitch to the council and, in October, to the wider AITO membership. Successful companies will be selected in November, with the winners' free one year’s Protégé membership commencing in early 2017.‎

The successful companies will also have access to mentoring and networking with established AITO members, have access to a suite of services from AITO Business Partners, ranging from bonding, recruitment and financial advice to complimentary initial meetings covering legal issues, plus rate reductions across a wide range of other services, from brochure mailing and direct mail fulfilment to utilisation of call-centre services.

Derek Moore, chairman of the organisation, commented: “This new promotion will not only encourage entrepreneurs and fledgling specialists to join the challenging world of specialist tour operating, but will also lay the foundation stones for future AITO members.

“Our 40th anniversary has provided the perfect launch pad for this exciting one-off challenge, to encourage those start-up companies with real drive to succeed in the world of specialist tour operating to aim for one year’s free Protégé membership of AITO, along with many special extras, which would normally be valued at around £4,000 for the year. We’re hoping to receive a large number of applications and we’re looking forward to assessing the pitches in a couple of months’ time.”

Interested parties can obtain details and an application form by emailing membership manager Bharat Gadhoke on

Business plans submissions should then be sent in by August 31.

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