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Who Should You Book With: Tour Operator or Travel Agent?

Categories: Travel Styles

Before you embark on an active vacation, you’ll likely need to spend some time planning out the details. How will you get there? What will you see? Where will you stay? These are crucial planning questions and in some cases, you’ll need a helping hand. Ideally, this aid will be an expert who will guide the way and make travel planning a lot easier for you.

There are a number of ways to book and plan your upcoming tour, however the two most common are through a tour operator and a travel agent. While they are similar, each can offer a different set of advantages and disadvantages.

To help you plan your perfect holiday adventure, we have created a handy guide below to help you understand the differences between these two options.

What is a Tour Operator?

A tour operator is responsible for creating vacation packages that include activities, accommodation, and transportation. These vacation packages can be organized to cater to a group or individual travellers, and they can often be offered at a low cost. Tour operators can promote their itineraries themselves or by wholesaling them through a Travel Agent.

Benefits:

Save Time
The biggest benefit of using a tour operator for planning a vacation is the time you’ll save on planning out your activities, accommodation and transportation. We know it takes a tremendous amount of time to research, plan and book an adventure holiday. Fortunately, that is what tour operators are for. A tour operator will plan part of your vacation, so that you can arrive at your destination with peace of mind.

Personal Approach
When planning your own trip online, you may come across information that is not entirely accurate or is catered to a specific type of traveller. Not everyone travels the same way, and if you take advice from strangers online, it may not meet your own expectations. However, with the help of a tour operator, you’ll get expert advice with a personal touch. You’ll be able to speak or email the tour operator directly and gain insight from those who care about your trip, as they are responsible for making sure all the arrangements are satisfactory to your needs.

Specialization
If you crave unique activities that only experts know about, you may end up spending ages researching online, especially if you’re planning an active holiday.

Choosing a tour operator that specializes in their market will likely guarantee to give the very best value and experience, as they are the experts in their field of travel. Tour operators will be able to provide you with all sorts of tips and tricks that others may not be aware of or can offer. Even if you rely on online review or DIY tours, you’ll miss out on certain deals and packages that tour operators may have instead, as they have influence over certain type of suppliers, such as airlines and hotels.

Convenience
If something goes awry on your trip, or you need to make changes to your arrangements, you may not be able to do it all on your own. In most cases, a tour operator will have their own office in the destination you are travelling to. This will allow you to seek assistance throughout your trip, in the most convenient way possible.

Restrictions:

If booking with this option, make sure you take advantage of communicating directly with the tour operator. By communicating directly, you will ensure that the trip is the right one made for you, based on your interests and fitness level. Additionally, communicating with the tour operator will help you establish standards, which will help decrease any potential disappointment of certain expectations not being met.

Lastly, if you choose to use a tour operator, you’ll want to research their expertise level, as your experience will ultimately depend on their knowledgeable arrangements.

What is a Travel Agent?

Travel agents are otherwise seen as retailers of travel. They are essentially travel consultants and sell the tours created by the Tour Operators.

Benefits:

Established Relationship
If you have an agent that you use regularly, they will be familiar with your likes and dislikes based on your previous travel experiences. As they sell multiple tours from Tour Operators, travel agents should be able to offer you the best value for the experience you desire. With this already established relationship, you won’t have to worry about researching tour options or companies.

Experience
Since travel agents sell tours every day and have relationships with tour operators, they have developed necessary insight and experience that will benefit the traveller. Travel agents will know if a tour company has a bad reputation in the travel industry and thereby protect you from wasting money or ruining your dream holiday.

Restrictions:

If you’re booking with a travel agent, it’s important to note that their relationship with tour operators may be biased. Some travel agencies will only sell packages from tour operators with preferred contracts, and they may not take the traveller’s best interests into consideration. As a traveller, there are many questions that should be asked to determine whether the trip is the perfect fit for you. Since an agent is the middleman, using this option comes with risks, mostly because their recommendations may not always align with the traveller’s expectations.

Lastly, if something happens while you are travelling, it can be difficult and costly to contact your travel agent. It is always best to try and resolve any issues or disappointments during your trip, as it happens, instead of waiting until you arrive home from your trip. If there’s an issue that needs solving immediately, it may be challenging to reach your travel agent for assistance.

Who should you choose?

Which of these two options is better suited for you will depend on your travel needs. While both options have their benefits, if you want a specialized vacation package crafted by experts, we recommend booking with a tour operator.