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 get onto what we’re here for:


Tour operators

The tour operator is a company, firm or organisation 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 specialised and a pleasure to be a part of.



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.



Travel Agents

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. 



Moreover, they are presenting all of this to tourists, which is a very important aspect to keep in mind. Some of the best travel agencies will make arrangements for the travel tickets, they will also handle entertainment, accommodation, travel documents and so on. 



Depending on the agency they might also be able to secure travel insurance, foreign currency if needed and so forth.



As per a recent report released by Statista, the travel agency industry is projected to generate $17.3 billion in revenue in the United States only.

The difference between tour operators and travel agents

At first glance, these two jobs are rather similar, but there are clear differences. Let’s review them:



For instance, a travel agent will act on their own with the travelers, they will actually become part of the packages provided by agencies. On the other hand, tour operator will not act on their own with prospective travelers and will only offer the main packages.



Travel agents will be responsible for all the arrangements during the entire trip. That being said, they could make more profit in the overall terms when compared to the tour operator. In spite of that, tour operators will manage everything from beginning up until the end. And they will end up getting a greater percentage of profit when compared to the travel agent.



Which business should you start? 

Now that you know the differences between the two, you just have to figure out what option works for you very well. Ideally you want to go with value, quality and you also need to see examine which type of service you are better at providing



Before you start your own business it’s a good idea to do a little experimenting and try out both these jobs and see which one fulfills your needs the most. There are always going to be people that like travel agent jobs over tour operators, just like there are people more inclined to be the latter option themselves.



Regardless of what option you choose, we guarantee that you will be very happy with the results and the entire experience. Nothing is impossible as long as you work with a team that’s reliable, professional and fully committed to bringing you value. 



Granted, starting a new business in the travel industry will be tough at first, but it can also bring in front some nifty results too. As long as you know what you are getting into results can be more than ok.



Alright, back to you, it’s time for you to study both options and then pick the one you like. Both of them are lucrative, that’s for sure! Share with us in the comments, which option would you choose, and why?


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