A tour operator is someone (company, firm or an organization) who organizes, prepares and runs a holiday tour. They work with suppliers to create a packaged tour which they put their own price tag on, and can be booked by travel agents for their clients, or by the traveler directly.
Unlike travel agents, they do not sell anybody else’s packages but organize and sell their own tours. If you come across a tour package which includes accommodation, transport, breakfast, tour guides, and sightseeing etc, it is organized by the operator.
There are many different types of tour operators including inbound tour operators, outbound tour operators, domestic tour operators, and ground tour operators.
Inbound tour operators are the ones who deal and handle directly inbound foreign tourists; provide them various services on their arrival and departure such as transfer, accommodation, transportation, sightseeing, entertainment, currency, insurance services etc. are known as inbound tour operators. Outbound Tour operators who promote tours for foreign destinations, maybe business tours or leisure tours.. For example a group of American tourists going on a trip to India and Thomas Cook handle arrangements in America like as ticket reservation, hotel booking etc. then Thomas Cook is called Outbound Tour operators in the context of America.
Domestic tour operators operate within the boundary of their home country and cater the diverse needs of individual and group travelers. Ground tour operators commonly known as handling agencies and their main function is to organize tour arrangements for incoming tourists on the behalf of overseas operators. For ex- When a tour operator himself promotes beach holidays, wildlife holidays, adventure tours, heritage tours at different places, the difficulty arises. It is the ground operator then who by handling the incoming travelers in the same season but at different places ensures that the entire operation is according to the package tours or agreements.
Travel agents work directly with the public and converse with clients in order to determine the best possible travel destinations, transportation arrangements, and accommodations for the client's particular needs. They plan, arrange, book, and make the necessary arrangements for travelers. They sell flights, accommodation and tours, and package them together for travellers who don’t wish to book themselves.
Just like tour operators, there are several types of travel agents. Some put together itineraries from scratch for their clients while others work for specific travel companies, and some are mere resellers of pre-packaged tours on behalf of Host Agencies.
But it doesn’t matter what type of travel agent you choose for your trip, they will always be helpful and make suggestions based on your interests, your budget, and your travel requirements, because they’re experts in booking travel, and know the best methods for planning and booking a holiday.
Being a Travel agent is a professional line of work – to be qualified and licensed to book trips on behalf of other people, many agencies in the world need a license, and then only they can be deemed as a professional travel agent.
They make money is through access to industry discounts from companies they work with, which allows them to add a markup / commission to make money without charging more to the traveler.
- Travel agents sell the holiday package purchased from different tour operators whereas Tour operators take care of the clients according to the package description like meal facilities, sightseeing, offering other travel destinations, etc.
- Tour operators are often specialized in one, or very few countries. But travel agents can deal with most destinations.
- A travel agent earns less profit, usually a small mark up or commission based on the travel they’re booking. Tour operators have the potential to earn a huge profit, as they set their own price tag.
- Travel agents can’t work without the help of tour operators. But tour operators can work without a travel agency being that people are now more likely to contact tour operators directly for a holiday package.
- There are different kinds of training programs available to start a travel agency. In comparison, the tour operator requires proper business management skills.
- Travel agents can give advice about travel documents like passports, visas etc. Tour operators are great for advice about legalities on the ground.
- Both belong in the travel industry
- Both help tourists fulfill their holiday experiences
- Both have information about various destinations.
- Both promote tourism in various destinations.
- Both will sell you travel insurance.