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International Orchestra Tours: Costs and Savings

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

International touring has a great impact on the orchestra as an organization, on individual players, on the conductor, on the audiences, and on the presenters. Martha Gilmer, CEO of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra says: "It is a coalescing experience, and I think all of that adds up to a very positive effect on music-making that comes home with them."

Before you start planning, you should know that we will assist you before, during and after the tour with our experience and vast knowledge of all carnet countries and foreign customs services. Since 1994, 207 boomerang carnets® have been issued to the "Big 13" orchestras who used them to tour 42 countries. Carnets are a common international touring tool. 


For decades, orchestras around the world have used ATA Carnets to offset the cost of import-duty and -tax associated with international touring. Without the benefits of ATA Carnets, orchestras would have a difficult time touring internationally because it is costly. The breakdown of the major areas of expense of an average international tour are:

  • Travel (air/ground): 20%
  • Artist fees: 19%
  • Cargo (air/ground/crew): 17%
  • Hotel: 17%
  • Per diem: 13%
  • Communications: 2%
  • Commissions: 1%
  • Other (extra personnel, other consultants, expense reports, etc.): 11%

Travel and cargo combined account for approximately 37% of expenses. Note that nowhere in this breakdown are import-duty and -tax because they simply were not owed. The touring orchestra used an ATA Carnet. Had they not, the duty and tax owed would have added a considerable amount. This amount can be refunded back from the foreign countries but that can take months. The cost to avoid payment of duty and tax includes the carnet Basic Processing Fee, and the cost of the surety bond. Other ancillary fees may apply.


The amount an orchestra saves by using an ATA Carnet varies for each orchestra and country they are touring to. The import-duty and -tax rates vary by country but, generally range between 10% - 40% of the General List Value. Benefits of the ATA Carnet that orchestras can take advantage of are: 

  • your carnet is valid for up to a year
  • into multiple countries, multiple times during its validity
  • covers hand-carried instruments,
  • instruments and equipment checked through as baggage
  • cargo shipments
  • you will know the costs before departure
  • have peace-of-mind because entry be quicker and easier
  • have less work, less hassle, and fewer unknowns

International touring is critical to an orchestra's profitability and we want to ensure your touring schedule rebounds in the future. Our expertise is built on decades of experience and we know how to keep your costs down.

ATA Carnets have built-in security. This is another reason why they are a valuable tool for touring orchestras because they are a unified, internationally recognized customs document. All customs services have approved the temporary entry of the instruments and equipment listed on the carnet. 

If you are interested in a consultation on how to approach an international tour, please contact Monika Jadeszko who will be happy to share her expertise on how to begin planning.