Tour operator vs travel agent: Differences and similarities between both
Lots of people discuss whether there’s a difference between tour operators and travel agents. Whether you are in the travel industry or not, you will find yourself misunderstanding some terms, here, we’ll set a common misconception straight.
Each one of them brings in a different perspective that we’ll touch on in detail later on. In spite of the fact that they have distinct functions and purposes, one of the strongest similarities between them is that travelers can get some astounding results and a tremendous value all the time, no matter what.
While the differences between both are indeed quite abundant, you do need to keep in mind that travelers might end up working with either tour operators or agents if they opt for a trip. Each one of these businesses will play a different role based on the situation at hand.
The idea here is to fully understand what each one of them does and how it works. Now, let’s hop onto what we’re here for:
The tour operator is a company, firm or organization that will buy travel components separately from multiple suppliers. Then they will combine those components the way they want into a single package. This package will obviously come with its own price tag.
For example, they can control, book and devise an entire trip by creating a package holiday that include elements like airport transfers, accommodation, activities, tours. However, a tour might not necessarily include all of these elements.
The sales process of these tours will take place either directly or via a middleman. It totally makes sense and it will bring in front a tremendous, powerful experience for the customer.
Their main responsibility is to deliver and also perform all those services that are specified within the tour package. Sometimes, they will provide some of these services on their own!
Obviously, things will differ from one tour operator to the next. While some of them go for the simpler approach, others just help customers find the best experiences in packages and they go from there.
Some consider them to be wholesalers and they are not entirely wrong here. They do buy services and goods in bulk but they do prepare a complete experience for the customer to enjoy and appreciate.
There are operators that come with inclusive tours, those tours that you just can’t find anywhere else, which are extremely specialized and a pleasure to be a part of all the time.
As you can imagine, all tours can be adapted and adjusted based on the customer requirements. It offers a much more impressive and comprehensive experience, and the payoff alone will be second to none due to that, especially in the long run.
There are multiple types of tour operators. The inbound operators are the ones that will receive guests and handle arrangements in the host country, they mostly offer community based tourism experiences. The ones that promote tours for foreign destinations are outbound operators.
Domestic tour operators are, as the name suggests, offering their services to domestic travelers, even if the services are not entirely taking place within the country. And you will also have ground operators, which are locally based and tend to partner with other travel businesses mainly instead of selling transportation and guide services individually.
According to IBISWorld, the tour operator industry has significantly grown over the past five years to 2019. In the present year, it reached a revenue of $8 billion.
The travel agent is a person that knows tourist products very well and that are directly selling them to customers. They help tourists narrow down their search as they hold the role of selling and administering travel packages from various tour operators. This allows to offer various types of customers different experiences that suits each of them best.
The thing to note is that they will either be the owner or a manager of an agency, and they might have employees that will advise tourists and sell packages. But this can also be an individual, depending on the situation as you can imagine.
As for travel agents, they are the ones that play a major role when it comes to promoting tourism in a certain country or a destination. The travel agency will process and package all attractions, amenities, ancillary services, and so on.