What Does a Specialist Tour Operator Do?

A specialized tour operator creates one-of-a-kind travel experiences for a specific clientele. More specifically, these people plan trips for people who share common hobbies or interests, such as cycling or hiking, and who want to participate in such activities while on vacation. This type of tour operator may work for a company that specializes in organizing such trips or as a freelance travel planner.

The majority of specialized tour operators plan trips from start to finish. This includes arranging for air and ground transportation, as well as lodging and special events. In order to complete certain travel activities, a specialized tour operator may collaborate with other professional tour guides. For example, he or she may be the primary organizer for a group’s safari adventure, but he or she may also work with a wildlife guide or tracker who is more knowledgeable about the finer points of leading a safari tour.

While this term usually refers to a single person performing the duties of a specialist tour operator, it can also refer to entire companies that provide such services. Rather than a traditional travel agency, travelers frequently seek out an agency that specializes in unique travel adventures. It’s common for such a company to hire only tour operators who have experience creating specialty tours. Other desirable qualities include a keen eye for detail, excellent communication, the ability to work under pressure, and general knowledge of the tourism industry.

A specialist tour operator is likely to have participated in one or more specialized tours as a traveler, in addition to prior experience working in the tourism industry. Many people choose specialized tourism jobs because they enjoy adventure travel, such as safari expeditions, international cycling tours, or hunting trips. Specialized tour agencies often value firsthand experience because the useful knowledge and experience gained during such vacations can be passed on to clients.

Beyond making travel arrangements, specific specialist tour operator responsibilities may vary depending on the types of travel activities in which they have previous experience. Operators work with clients to tailor their vacations to a specific interest that can be shared with other travelers or enjoyed family members. Some tour operators specialize in foreign or exotic destinations that are only available for a limited time, but many also plan local excursions for weekend getaways or short-term activities like skiing or fly fishing.

What is a Travel Consultant?

What is a tour operator, what is a travel secretary, what is a pbx operator, privacy overview.

Tour Operators

Tour operator is an organization, firm, or company who buys individual travel components, separately from their suppliers and combines them into a package tour, which is sold with their own price tag to the public directly or through middlemen, is called a Tour Operator .

More precise tour operators are primarily responsible for delivering and performing the services specified in a given package tour. They can provide these services themselves as some have their own cars and coaches, hotels, and other travel-related services or can obtain these from the other suppliers. That is why they are called manufacturers of tourism products .

Tour operators are sometimes called wholesalers but this is partially true because a wholesaler buys goods and services in bulk at his own account to prepare a tour package and then retails it through the travel agencies or directly to clients. However, a tour operator who has his own one or more tourists products components, (SOTC, TCI, Thomas Cook, Indo Asia KUONI formulates a new tourist product for example ‘ inclusive tours .’

Tour operators generally offer a variety of package tours to cater to the needs of different kinds of travelers.

Definitions of Tour Operator

Poyther (1993) defines, “tour operator is  one who has the responsibility of putting the tour ingredients together, marketing it, making reservations and handling actual operation.”

Holloway (1992) stated that tour operations undertake a distinct function in the tourism industry, they purchase separate elements of tourism products/services and combine them into a package tour which they sell directly or indirectly to the tourists.

Today, tour operators have become highly competitive. They endeavor to achieve a high volume of turnover, and maximum International and domestic market share by effectively operating. Moreover, the success of many developed and developing nations as tourists destinations depend heavily on a tour operator’s ability to attract tourists, development and promotion of tourism plant, diversification of tourism product and their social responsibilities to develop a remote and backward area.

Types of Tour Operators

Tour operators are basically categorized into four types . These are categories on the basis of their nature of the business and its operations.

Inbound Tour Operators

Outbound tour operators, domestic tour operators.

  • Ground Operators

These are also known as incoming tour operators . Technically, the operators who receive guests, clients/tourists, and handle arrangements in the host country are c alled inbound tour operators . For example, a group of American Tourists is coming through TCI Ltd. to India and the company makes arrangements and handles the group in India then TCI is called an inbound tour operator.

Incidentally, the inbound traffic to the country for the last two decades has been decreasing. Essentially the tour operators need to adopt innovative marketing strategies and should introduce a special interest tour to cater the special needs of Japanese, Americans, French and British people.

Tour operator who promote tours for foreign destinations, maybe business tour or leisure tour is called outbound tour operators . For example a group of American tourists going to a trip of India and Thomas Cook handle arrangement 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 are those who assemble, combine tourist components into inclusive tours and sell it to the domestic travelers. In general, these tour operators provide travel services within the tourist’s native country.

The domestic tour operators operate within the boundary of the home country and offer package tour to the travelers viz. Domestic inclusive tours or independent tours.

Ground Operators/Destination Management Companies

These are commonly known as handling agencies and their main function is to organize tour arrangements for incoming tourists on the behalf of overseas operators. Let us take the case of India as a destination that – has a varied culture.

When a tour operator himself promotes beach holidays, wildlife holidays, adventure tours, heritage tours at the 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.

Sometime when a handling agency is at a prominent tourist place i.e., Delhi and it has to make arrangements to Goa, then it contracts (If it has no office of its own) with a local operator (known as excursion agent) to handle the arrangement on his behalf.

Why Ground Operators?

Obviously, the tour operation companies do not have close contact with suppliers, governments, destinations and so on. It leaves no choice with the companies but to appoint handling agencies at the destinations.  The main reasons are:

  • Introduction of new products or plant to promote an exotic destination.
  • Lack of Government regulations.
  • Lack of personal contract.
  • Language problem.
  • The company cannot establish its own branch.

Recognizing the very fact that the reputation, performance, and profitability of tour company in its own market largely depends on the efficiency and effectiveness of ground operators, it has because necessary for the company to consider various factors before the selection of a handling agency, they are:

  • Size of business
  • Professional staff
  • Length of business
  • Area of operation/Product line
  • Market share

Functions of Ground Tour Operators

Over the years of functions and activities of the destination, companies have changed drastically to cope with the changing environment of the tourism industry. In fact, today’s destination companies have become more professional and are bound to provide personalized travel services to the tourists. The following functions are performed by ground tours operators:

  • Land arrangement
  • Contract and Negotiate with other vendors
  • Handling of Arrival and departure procedure
  • Planning and organizing local package tour
  • Escorting the tourists
  • Providing market information
  • Costing and pricing package tour

Practically, if we see the working of the travel agencies and tour operators in the industry we find that most of the organizations are performing different types of activities like the retail travel agency , wholesale travel agency, and tour operators.

The travel agency business is no longer an amateurism. Over the last two decades, the pattern and structure of travel agencies have changed to meet tough challenges in the international market. Today, small-scale agencies are finding the travel industry increasingly complex.

Thus, the small and medium scale travel agencies are disappearing or merging or falling instead of rising. On the other hand, a new concept has also emerged i.e. tour operation business . The tour operation business is new but a maturing business at the global level.

Functions of Tour Operator

A tour operator is an organization, firm, or person who is responsible for the actual arrangement of transport and accommodation facilities on any tour or vacations. They are also responsible for operating and providing vacation through contracting, booking, and packaging together of the various components of the tour such as hotel, transportation, meals, guides, optional tours, and sometimes flights.

A tour operator is like a service provider, providing the most convenient option for tourists to stay, visit, as well as leave from the city. A tour operator owns a high volume of travel services across carriers, services, and accommodation. Some most important functions of the tour operators are following as:

Planning a Tour

The most important functions of the tour operators are planning a tour. Tour operators plan a tour and make tour itinerary which contains the identification of the origin, destination and all the stopping point in a traveler’s tours. A prospective tour operator also gives advice to intending tourists in various types of tour programmes, which they may choose for their leisure or commercial travel.

Making Tour Package

Tour operator buys individual travel components, separately from there suppliers and combines them into a package tour. Tour operators make tour package by assembling various travel components into a final product that is called tour package which is sold to tourist with own price tag. Making tour packages is also an important function of Tour Operator.

Arranging a Tour

Tour operators make tour package and also arrange a tour according to tourist demands. Tour operators arrange the tour package and various tourists activities to provide the best experience to tourists/traveler.

Travel Information

Whatever the size of tour operators, it has provided necessary travel information to the tourists. This task is utterly difficult and very complicated. A tour operator must give up-to-date, accurate and timely information regarding destinations, modes of travel, accommodation, sightseeing, immigration, health and security rules about various permits required to travel in a particular area etc.


It is a very important function of all type tour operators and travel agencies. Tour operator makes all the reservation by making linkages with accommodation sector, transport sector and other entertainment organizations to reserve rooms, and seats in cultural programmes and transportation.

Travel Management

Tour operators manage tour from beginning to the end of the tour. A tour operator has the responsibility to look after the finer details of a vacation or tour such as hotel, accommodation, meals, conveyance etc. Tour operators provide travel guide, escorting services and arrange all travel related needs and wants.

Evaluate the Option Available

Tour operators evaluate all available options to provide a unique or unforgettable travel experience to tourists during their journey. Tour operators evaluate the various options available for a tour package and provide best of them to tourists.

Tour Operators makes tour packages and promote them into various tourists markets at domestic as well international level. Tour operators promote a travel destination to attract a large group of tourists at domestic as well as international level. In the promotion of tourist destination, tour operators play a key role. Travel agencies or tour operators are called as image builder of a country.

Sales and Marketing

Tour operators do sales and marketing of tourist products. Tour operators buy individual travel components, separately and combine them into a tour package, which is sold with their own price tag to the public directly. Tour operators do marketing of tourist destinations and tourism product to attracts the attention of the tourists/travelers.

Taking Care of Glitch

Tours operators are also called handling agencies which handles tour package and take care of all the glitches and problems arises during a tour package. Tour operators fix the glitches and provide the best available alternative to tourists during their journey.

Importance of Tour Operators

Tours operators play a key role in the tourism sector. Tour operators create tourist products, promote them a finally sold them to tourists.

Tour operators provide the best and competitive price to the tourist. Tour operators negotiate with suppliers of tourism products such as hotels, airlines and provide the best possible price to the tourist. Tour operators buy tourist products in bulk and get huge discounts from suppliers. So that they provide tourist products at a cheap price.

Tour operators organized a tour in the best way. They personalize and make sure each and every component of the tour is well-taken care. Tour operators provide the best travel experience during a tour. Tour operators save tourists time and money.

Tour operators provide immediate support systems at the host country as well as a foreign land. When tourists travel to a foreign land and things get uncertain, maybe its a health or loss of documents and need to return back or change of travel plan. A qualified tour operator takes care of all these unseen events with efficiency.

Tour operator caters to the needs of tourists on the based on their taste of travel. Tour operator provides all the best available option according to tourist needs and demands

Difference between Travel Agent and Tour Operator

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between tour operators and travel agents what exactly makes them different. The main difference between a Travel agent and Tour operator are following as:

  • A travel agent is a person who has full knowledge of tourist product – destinations, modes of travel, climate, accommodation, and other areas of the service sector. He acts on the behalf of the product providers/principals and in return get a commission.
  • Tour operator is an organization, firm, or company that buys individual travel components, separately from their suppliers and combines them into a package tour, which is sold with their own price tag to the public directly or through middlemen.
  • Tour operators are like wholesalers and travel agents are the retailers.
  • A tour operator makes the package holidays up and the travel agents sell them on.
  • Tour operator taking up the bulk of the responsibilities and his fee is obviously much greater than a travel agent.
  • A tour operator has the responsibility to look after the finer details of a vacation or tour such as hotel, accommodation, meals, conveyance, etc.

The wholesale travel agencies may offer or operate the package tours or may specialize in developing tours for inbound as well as outbound travelers. They are often referred to as tour operators, but there is a difference between Wholesale Travel Agencies and Tour operators .

A blue and gray logo with the words,'advertising hub '

What is Special Interest Tourism?

Do you know what special interest tourism is? If not, don't worry – you're not alone! Many people are unfamiliar with this term. But special interest tourism is an important sector of the tourism industry, and it's something that tour operators should be familiar with.

In this blog post, we will explain what special interest tourism is and why it's important. We'll also discuss how tour businesses can offer this type of tourism. Let's get started!

What is special interest tourism?

Special interest tourism (or specialist interest tourism) is a type of tourism that focuses on specific activities, interests, or experiences. It can include anything from environmental tourism to responsible tourism to film tourism.

special tour operator meaning

Special interest tourists are looking for unique experiences that they won't find elsewhere, so tour businesses need to understand their needs and preferences.

Think about quality over quantity. By tapping into a more specific market , you can provide an experience that matches a corresponding specific interest of the audience.

In the tourism industry where competition is rampant, having a well-defined special interest tour can help you stand out from the crowd. In fact, special interest tourism has seen a rapid growth now more than ever.

Characteristics of special interest tourism

Special interest tourists differ from regular travelers in that they are looking for a more focused experience. They often have specific interests and knowledge, and they may require certain services or amenities to enhance their visit.

Because of this, special interest tourism requires more detailed planning than other types of tourism. Tour operators must research areas of interest and offer activities and attractions that appeal to their target audience with practical perspective.

They must also understand the local culture and customs, as many special interest activities revolve around cultural experiences.

Why is special interest tourism important?

Special interest tourism provides many benefits to the tourism sector. It allows people to explore unique experiences and activities in an organized and safe manner. This type of tourism also helps to preserve cultural heritage and promote sustainability .

special tour operator meaning

By providing travelers with an authentic and educational experience, special interest tourism allows them to gain a better understanding of different cultures and customs. It also helps to create awareness about environmental issues and encourages responsible travel practices.

Now, people are shying away from the traditional mass tourism model and leaning towards more sustainable and niche travel decisions to satisfy their travel needs.

For instance, tourists would swap their beach trip for a specialist painting holiday or even an adventure across Jordan. This surge in popularity inspire people and has propelled the emergence of special interest tourism, as more and more individuals want to experience something unique.

The growth of specialist tourism

In the wake of COVID-19, people have developed a newfound appreciation for exploring beyond their own homes. This has become especially true as they are now more aware of all the possibilities that lie outside their comfort zones.

Therefore, tour businesses have the opportunity to tap into the growing special interest tourism market and provide specialized services that cater to specific interests. They should research their target audience thoroughly, understand their needs and preferences, and design itineraries accordingly.

Examples of special interest tourism

There are over 150 types of special interest tourism, from eco-tourism to wellness tours. Below are some examples of the main special interest tourism examples:

Health Tourism

This type of tourism combines medical treatments with leisure activities, allowing people to receive medical care and explore a new destination at the same time.

special tour operator meaning

It also includes visiting spas, resorts, and other wellness centers for relaxation.

What's great about health tourism is that travelers can receive health benefits while exploring a new city or country, so this SIT is common for businesses to recommend to tourists.

Culinary/Food Tourism

This type of special interest tourism revolves around food.

special tour operator meaning

The activities involve visiting local restaurants to try out special dishes, attending cooking classes, and taking guided tours of historical sites related to culinary arts. Tourists can also visit farms, markets, and wineries.

Culinary tourism allows people to immerse themselves in the local culture and learn about different cuisines, ingredients, and cooking techniques.

Read: Here's How to Start a Food Tour Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Adventure Tourism

Adventure tourism involves adventure activities such as mountain biking or climbing, rafting, kayaking, mountaineering, parasailing, etc. It is a great way for tourists to explore and experience the great outdoors.

special tour operator meaning

It also helps to promote sustainable development in local communities, as it encourages the preservation of natural resources and respect for the environment.

Usual destinations for adventure tourism of SIT include Australia, Africa, Thailand, and many more. Take note that this is also known as the environmental tourism.

Dark Tourism

As its name suggests, dark tourism involves visiting places associated with death, tragedy, or suffering.

special tour operator meaning

Some examples of destinations include the Auschwitz concentration camp and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

This special interest in tourism may be controversial for some people, but it gives visitors an insight into the history and culture of a destination. It also helps to create awareness about dark events that have occurred in the past.

Spiritual/Religious Tourism

For tourists who are looking for a more meaningful experience, spiritual or religious tourism is the answer.

special tour operator meaning

This special interest in tourism involves visiting holy places and participating in rituals that are specific to the destination’s culture.

Examples include attending Hindu festivals in India, exploring temples in Cambodia, and touring churches in Europe. Tourists can also take part in meditation retreats and yoga classes for a deeper understanding of the local religion.

Cultural Tourism

This special interest in tourism revolves around exploring the culture, traditions, and customs of certain destinations.

special tour operator meaning

It can include attending festivals and special events, taking part in cultural workshops, touring historical sites, and visiting museums to learn about different cultures.

Cultural tourism is a great way for tourists to gain an appreciation of local customs and traditions, giving them a deeper understanding of the destination.

Rural Tourism

Traveling in the countryside may be a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Rural tourism offers travelers a unique opportunity to connect with nature, explore picturesque landscapes, and get back in touch with traditional ways of life.

special tour operator meaning

Popular spots and destinations for this include Poland, the Middle East, the Philippines, and more. This type of SIT is ideal for people who want to learn more about rural cultures and experience life outside of tourist destinations.

From visiting farms to taking part in nature activities, it provides an immersive experience that can’t be found elsewhere.

Wildlife Tourism

Animal interaction is also a popular special interest in tourism. Wildlife tourism involves visiting wildlife preserves, zoos, and animal sanctuaries to observe animals in their natural habitat or learn about conservation efforts.

special tour operator meaning

This is beneficial for both travelers and the local community as it can help promote environmental awareness and generate income for the local economy. Popular destinations for wildlife tourism include Africa, Australia, and the Galapagos Islands.

Sports Tourism

For active travelers, sports tourism involves activities such as skiing, surfing, golfing, and more. Tourists can also experience special sports events such as the Olympics or watch professional sporting events in person.

special tour operator meaning

Sports tourism is not just about taking part in athletic activities; it’s also an opportunity to explore a destination and learn about its culture and traditions. Germany, Italy, the Middle East, Spain, Belgium, and more are great destinations for this special interest in tourism.

Architourism (or Architectural Tourism)

While this special interest in tourism is not as popular, it still offers travelers an interesting experience. Architourism involves visiting destinations that are renowned for their architecture and design.

special tour operator meaning

This special interest can involve exploring the Old Town of Prague, admiring Renaissance buildings in Florence, or touring modern skyscrapers in Singapore. It’s a great way to gain an appreciation of the history and culture behind a destination’s architecture.

Battlefields Tourism

For those who are fascinated by history and warfare, special interest in tourism also provides battlefield tours. These offer travelers a chance to explore the sites of famous wars and battles from around the world.

special tour operator meaning

Battlefields tourism can include touring World War II memorials in France, visiting sites from the American Civil War, or learning about historical landmarks from the Korean War. It’s an interesting and unique way to explore history in a new light.

Wedding Tourism

Newlyweds may opt for a special interest in tourism to take part in a destination wedding. From beach weddings in Greece to mountain elopements in Switzerland, this special interest offers couples the chance to get married in a beautiful and romantic location.

special tour operator meaning

Wedding tourism can also include attending special events such as traditional Indian or Chinese weddings. This is a great way to get a deeper understanding of foreign cultures and their wedding ceremonies.

Dive into Special Tourism Research

Unlock the secrets of special interest tourism with experts B. Weiler and C. Hall and the treasure trove of information in the Journal of Travel Research ! Weiler and Hall explore why people choose holidays based on hobbies, like food tours or bird-watching trips. Their findings help us understand what makes these special trips tick and how they’re different from regular holidays.

  • Special Interest Tourism by Weiler and Hall
  • Journal of Travel Research

Meanwhile, the Journal of Travel Research is your go-to place for all things travel and tourism, packed with studies and articles that explore people's many travel styles. For businesses and travel buffs, these resources are gold!

Use their insights to create engaging travel experiences that speak directly to travelers’ unique interests and passions. It’s all about crafting journeys that people love because they’re tailored just for them.

Wrapping Up

Special interest in tourism is an ideal way to explore a new destination and gain a deeper appreciation for its culture, traditions, and landscapes. From wildlife tours to wedding ceremonies, special interests in tourism can be tailored to any traveler’s unique interests.

Finding the right SIT as a tour operator may be challenging, but the rewards are worth it for providing travelers with special and authentic experiences.

Make Special Interest Tourism Work For Your Tour Business with Ticketinghub

Ticketinghub enables tour operators to easily create and sell special interest tours online. Our innovative booking system allows you to manage special requests, discounts, availability, and more tourism management tools — all in one place!

special tour operator meaning

With Ticketinghub, special interest tourism has never been easier. Get started today and make special interest tourism work for your business.

Book a demo here to learn more.

What is the meaning of special interest tourism?

Special interest tourism refers to travel motivated by the specific interests or passions of the tourist, rather than traditional tourism destinations. Special interest tourism definition encompasses various niche markets and forms of tourism, including cultural sites, wellness tourism, adventure activities, sports tourism, and eco-tourism. Activities are centered around unique, often specialized interests or customized leisure experiences.

What is an example of special interest tourism?

Special interest tourism could include culinary tourism, where travelers explore destinations to experience local cuisines and culinary traditions. Other examples include bird-watching tours, wine-tasting trips, and historical exploration, all of which fall under specialized tourism due to their specific focus.

Is special interest tourism in demand?

Absolutely! Over the past decade, special interest tourism has become a hot trend in the travel world, showing rising demand. Why? More and more travelers want unique experiences. They're not just visiting a particular destination; they're diving deep into what makes that place special.

This isn't just a passing trend. It's a growing industry. People are moving away from tourist spots and seeking out activities and experiences that match their personal interests. Think about it: instead of just visiting a city, travelers are now keen on joining recreational activities or learning from local people about their culture and traditions.

Recognizing this shift, many places are stepping up their destination marketing game. They're offering flexible packages that let tourists truly engage with the local area. It's not just about seeing sights anymore; it's about buying experiences that enrich the soul and promote well-being.

In short, the increasing number of travelers wanting more than just a standard vacation is the chief driver behind this boom. They're after genuine, memorable moments, and special interest tourism delivers just that.

What are the motivations for special interest tourism?

Motivation for special interest tourism often stems from a desire to delve deeper into particular hobbies or passions. Travelers may seek authentic experiences, knowledge enhancement, social interaction, or even physical wellness. These interests are all catered for by unique activities and destinations related to their interests, such as special interest holidays.

How do you identify special interests?

Identifying special interests involves exploring and understanding personal preferences, passions, and hobbies. It could be related to activities like hiking, historical exploration, or culinary experiences. These activities can be catered for through specialist tourism offerings, providing in-depth and tailored experiences.

What are special interest sites?

Special interest sites refer to destinations or platforms that cater to the specific hobbies or passions of a group of people. Special interest tourism sites might include historical landmarks, nature reserves, or culinary hotspots. These sites offer distinctive experiences and cater to particular interests or activities.

What is the difference between mass tourism and special interest tourism?

While mass tourism typically involves large numbers of people visiting popular destinations for general leisure activities, special interest tourism is characterized by travelers seeking specialized experiences aligned with their specific interests or passions, such as bird-watching or historical exploration, often in small groups.

What are the five tourist motivations?

The five tourist motivations include:

  • Knowledge : Seeking information and education.
  • Adventure : Pursuing thrills and excitement.
  • Relaxation : Desiring rest and rejuvenation.
  • Social Interaction : Wants to engage with others.
  • Personal Fulfillment : Seeking self-actualization and accomplishment through travel.

What motivates tourists?

The main factors that motivate tourists include cultural curiosity, adventure seeking, relaxation, business purposes, and social interaction. In special interest tourism, motivations might also be deeply tied to specific hobbies or passions. For example, exploring specialised tourism examples like culinary or adventure tourism.

What are the two main roles of a special interest group?

Special interest groups have two main roles: advocacy and representation. These groups actively influence public policy and opinion in favor of their particular interests or causes. They represent the needs and desires of their members, often playing a crucial role in shaping related policies and practices.

Get the latest news and stay in touch with the industry secrets.

By clicking "Subscribe", you agree to our Privacy Policy and the data we do collect.

Online Travel Booking Tool: How Magic Link is Solving the Rebooking Problem

Online Travel Booking Tool: How Magic Link is Solving the Rebooking Problem

FareHarbor vs Rezdy vs TicketingHub: Honest Tour Booking Software Comparison Guide

FareHarbor vs Rezdy vs TicketingHub: Honest Tour Booking Software Comparison Guide

Why Online Reputation Management Is Important for Tour Operators

Why Online Reputation Management Is Important for Tour Operators

How to Craft a Perfect Tourism FAQs Page for Your Tours

How to Craft a Perfect Tourism FAQs Page for Your Tours

Keep Reading


Special Interest Tourism: Find Your Niche


Special interest tourism (SIT) is on the rise, and for good reason. It provides travelers the chance to explore their passions and gives you the opportunity to curate a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Special interest tourism focuses on providing leisure and adventure activities that cater to the needs of a specific audience. Tapping into your special interest niche will connect you to a smaller, yet highly-devoted audience. Think quality over quantity. 

special tour operator meaning

In a sector that celebrates individuality and personalization, there is something for everyone. Special interest tourism examples range from spiritual, adventure, and food tourism to military, nostalgia, and lighthouse tourism. These are just a few examples from the long list of special interest tourism options – you just have to find the niche that works for you and your audience! 

What does SIT look like in 2022? The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a shift in consciousness that has changed the way that travelers want to explore their destinations. In the summer of 2020, Booking.com conducted a global survey with 60 percent of respondents saying they would use an app or website that recommended itineraries where tours would have a positive impact on locals. Special interest tourism concepts and cases have shifted as travelers are increasingly concerned about the impact of their travels on the climate and local community. 

Top Types of Special Interest Tourism

Environmental tourism:.

As sustainability remains a chief driver in SIT, environmental tourism has emerged as a dominant niche. Often referred to as ecotourism, sustainable tourism and responsible tourism, environmental tourism focuses on activities that don’t compromise the needs of future generations. Environmental tourism is at the forefront of special interest tourism trends and will continue to grow in demand. 

In its 2025 Megatrends prediction report, Skift reveals how this is already influencing travel decisions. In a global survey, 51 percent of respondents claimed they would change their chosen travel destination and head instead to a less-popular one if that decision would have less of an adverse environmental impact.

Some online travel agencies and tour operators now offer guests the option of dedicating a day or two of their trip to activities like helping to construct a local water purification system or planting trees along shorelines devastated by hurricanes. 

Adventure Tourism:

special tour operator meaning

According to Future Market Insights , adventure tourism is resilient and supports local economies by attracting high-value customers. With an increasing number of Millennial and Gen-Z travelers who prefer adventure sports, adventure tourism is creating a lucrative scope for expansion in the activities segment.  Adventure tourism activities vary in risk and difficulty and can include hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountain biking and snowshoeing. 

Wellness Tourism:

special tour operator meaning

Wellness tourism is a growing industry, supported by travelers actively seeking ways to enhance their well-being. Dating back to the ancient baths in Rome, traveling for the purpose of improving our well-being has always been a priority, and now there are seemingly endless ways to provide customers with a wellness-centered experience. Whether it’s nutrient-rich food, a trip to a natural hot spring, or meditation and yoga, wellness tourism is an attractive niche for travelers because the desire for self-improvement is part of being human.  

Finding your special interest niche 

What is unique about your tours that makes you stand out? What values do you share with your customers? These are things to consider when choosing your niche. For example, female-run Travel Insights offers “Wander Women” tours. These all-female trips are centered around local women’s businesses and achievements, focusing on those who work within their communities to sustain their culture, heritage and the planet’s future. This is brilliant for a number of reasons: it ties into the growing desire for sustainable tourism, while allowing female travelers to develop lasting relationships with other like-minded women. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all need connection in our lives. 


You know your audience better than anyone, so why not consider personalizing your tour packages? According to Think With Google , nearly 57% of travelers are in favor of personalizing their buying experiences based on their personal preferences. It might be wise to think of ways that you can offer flexible packages and tailor them to suit the traveler’s needs. There is a rising demand for personalization, and it will aid in the expansion of the market in the coming years.

We see this happening in Kenya, which is home to over 3000 tour operators offering safari excursions. This has led many operators to begin incorporating unique features to meet their customer’s needs. On top of seeing wildlife, a customer might be passionate about food, so they might consider pairing their tour with culinary lunches and dinners. Or perhaps they value wellness, so an operator might pair their tour with yoga classes. The possibilities are endless!

special tour operator meaning

Another great way to find your niche is to focus on your local area. Consider the heritage sites , national parks, or landmarks in your region that make it special. Are there any sites in your area that have been formally recognized? A popular destination in adventure tourism is the hike across the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim trail, which was made even more popular in 2019 when it was declared an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.

Awards like this are worth noting because they increase tourist popularity and attract people based on the title alone. Chances are you’re already aware of how amazing your area is, and it’s already accessible to you, so think of the ways that you like to enjoy it, and build your niche around makes you passionate about where you live. 

Reaching the right audience

With special interest tourism, you’re not providing an experience for the masses and your marketing should reflect that. You want your messaging to reach those who will appreciate what you have to offer and get excited to book with you. In order to target your audience, you need to know who they are. Consider factors like their budget, age, gender, values and interests. The great thing about having a niche is that it allows you to become an expert in that area, and with expertise comes credibility. 

Once you have chosen your niche, you can focus your research to pinpoint exactly what your audience is looking for and market to them accordingly. If you are a smaller business, consider moving to an online booking system rather than booking over the phone or in person.  Online analytics can give you the data you need to make a big impact even with a small marketing budget.

special tour operator meaning

Social media is also a great way for small businesses to market to their audience. Not only is it relatively inexpensive, but content is also targeted towards users based on their tastes and preferences. There are a number of ways to promote your tour on social media . With the right strategy and audience information, you’ll attract business organically. 

Making special interest tourism work for you

The beauty of special interest tourism is that you can focus all your attention on one thing and really excel in a specific area. Lasting relationships are formed with your customers because you understand their needs and interests. You’ll gain credibility by having a clear mission and executing it well. The importance of special interest tourism is that it gives travelers the chance to bond with like-minded people and form genuine connections, and in a disconnected world, that is invaluable. 

Signup banner

Written By | Caitlyn McGee

Caitlyn is Vancouver-based freelance writer covering the tourism industry. With a Communication Studies degree, she specializes in digital and content marketing.

Previous Article Your Marketing Mix: the 7 Ps of Travel and Tourism Marketing

Next Article Thoughtful pricing strategies for tour operators

Related Posts

Group of people on a lake practicing yoga during sunset

Articles , Increase Online Bookings , Tourism Trends

Set-jetting, forest bathing, and hush trips: 20 innovative tourism business ideas and trends for 2023.


Articles , Increase Online Bookings , Marketing Strategies

Your marketing mix: the 7 ps of travel and tourism marketing.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Articles , Increase Online Bookings , Tourism Best Practices

Advantages and disadvantages of online travel agencies (otas), search the blog.


  • All Categories
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Tourism Trends

Most Popular Articles

  • Your Marketing Mix: the 7 Ps of Travel and Tourism Marketing 108 views
  • Set-jetting, Forest Bathing, and Hush Trips: 20 Innovative Tourism Business Ideas and Trends for 2023 99 views
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) 90 views
  • Thoughtful pricing strategies for tour operators 9 views
  • How To Use Instagram Stories For Travel Marketing 6 views

I have read and agree to the Rezgo Privacy Policy


Sign-up for a free demo.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmo tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Schedule A Demo


What is a Tour Operator?

Embarking on a journey to a new destination is an exciting adventure that brings with it the promise of discovery, cultural immersion, and unforgettable experiences. While the allure of wanderlust beckons, the complexities of planning a seamless trip can sometimes be daunting. This is where tour operators step in to create a bridge between your travel dreams and reality. In this blog, we’ll delve into the world of tour operators, highlighting their benefits and comparing them to traditional travel agencies.

A tour operator is a travel professional or company that designs, organizes, and sells comprehensive travel packages that include various elements such as transportation, accommodation, activities, meals, and more. These packages are carefully curated to offer travelers a hassle-free and well-structured experience. Tour operators work closely with local suppliers, hotels, transportation providers, and guides to ensure that every aspect of your journey is thoughtfully planned and executed.

The Benefits of Choosing a Tour Operator

Expertise and Local Insight: Tour operators possess in-depth knowledge of the destinations they offer. They have the ability to craft itineraries that showcase the must-see attractions as well as hidden gems that might go unnoticed by the average traveler.

Saves Time and Effort: Planning a trip can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Tour operators take the burden off your shoulders by handling all the logistics, from booking accommodations and arranging transportation to organizing activities.

Tailored Experiences: While group tours are popular, tour operators also offer customized itineraries for travelers who prefer a more personal touch. They consider your preferences, interests, and travel style to create a journey that suits you perfectly.

Seamless Transitions: Moving from one location to another can sometimes be tricky, especially in unfamiliar places. Tour operators ensure smooth transitions between destinations, taking care of transportation and minimizing any potential stress.

Access to Exclusive Experiences: Tour operators often have established relationships with local guides and suppliers, granting you access to unique experiences that might not be available to independent travelers.

Safety and Support: Traveling to a foreign country can present unexpected challenges. Tour operators provide a safety net, offering assistance and support in case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.

Tour Operators vs. Travel Agencies

While both tour operators and travel agencies play pivotal roles in the travel industry, they differ in their approach and scope:

Tour Operators: As discussed, tour operators focus on crafting comprehensive travel packages that encompass various aspects of a journey. They specialize in creating cohesive experiences, handling everything from accommodations to activities.

Travel Agencies: Travel agencies primarily assist with booking individual components of a trip, such as flights, accommodations, and car rentals. They offer flexibility but often require travelers to assemble these components into a coherent itinerary themselves.

Why Choose a Tour Operator?

Holistic Experience: Tour operators offer a complete, well-rounded experience that takes the stress out of planning.

Local Insights: Their expertise ensures that you gain insights into the culture, history, and lifestyle of your destination.

Time and Effort Savings: With all the logistics managed for you, you can fully immerse yourself in the journey without worrying about details.

Peace of Mind: The support and assistance of a tour operator provide a safety net, enhancing your sense of security while traveling.

Exclusive Access: Tour operators often provide access to unique experiences that are carefully curated to enhance your journey.

william bayreuther C0KdBbibUYo unsplash

In the realm of travel, tour operators emerge as true architects of unforgettable experiences. With their dedication to crafting seamless journeys, local insights, and personalized touch, they stand out as ideal partners for turning your travel dreams into reality. When considering your next adventure, think beyond the conventional travel agency and embrace the benefits of choosing a tour operator. Your voyage awaits – let Juniper guide you on a path to remarkable discoveries.

Thanks for checking out Juniper Tours’ Travel blog! We hope you enjoyed your read and if you’re looking for more content please check out our other blog posts ! If you’re looking for help planning your next travel adventure then book a FREE travel consultation with one of our Travel Specialists today!​

Schedule a Free Travel consultation today!​

new draft logo

© Copyright 2023 Juniper Tours.

Privacy Policy

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive offers and updates.

Juniper Tour

Feel free to contact us anytime!

  • 877-774-3256​
  • Email us Here
  • 1 Central St, Suite 205 Middleton, MA 01949

Speak with our Travel Specialists

Ready to Schedule a FREE Travel Consultation? 

Screen Shot 2020 09 10 at 5.08.57 PM

We’ll send you our free full color travel guide. Just fill in the form below


What Does a Tour Operator Do?

Find out what a Tour Operator does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Tour Operator.

special tour operator meaning

The Tour Operator plays an essential role in the travel and tourism industry by designing, organizing, and conducting tours and travel packages for individuals or groups. They ensure that the travel experience is seamless, enjoyable, and enriching, taking care of logistics such as transportation, accommodation, and itinerary planning. By maintaining strong relationships with various stakeholders including hotels, guides, and transport services, they are able to curate experiences that meet the diverse needs and preferences of travelers. Their expertise in understanding destinations, cultural nuances, and local attractions enables them to create packages that offer more than just a visit, but a deep dive into the essence of the place. Through meticulous planning and coordination, the Tour Operator ensures that each journey is memorable, safe, and aligned with the expectations of their clients.

Tour Operator Job Duties

  • Design and develop diverse tour packages to meet the interests and requirements of different groups of tourists, including itinerary planning, accommodation selection, and transportation arrangements.
  • Negotiate contracts with service providers such as hotels, transportation companies, and activity providers to secure the best rates and services for tours.
  • Market and promote tour packages through various channels, including online platforms, travel expos, and partnerships with travel agencies, to attract potential customers.
  • Provide detailed pre-tour information to clients, including travel tips, itinerary details, and necessary preparations, to ensure they are well-prepared for the trip.
  • Lead and manage tours, ensuring all aspects of the tour run smoothly, from coordinating transportation to managing schedules and addressing any issues that arise.
  • Offer insightful and engaging commentary on the cultural, historical, and natural significance of tour destinations to enhance the client’s experience.
  • Handle financial transactions related to the tour, including collecting payments from clients, managing budget allocations for different aspects of the tour, and settling accounts with service providers.
  • Collect feedback from clients post-tour to assess the quality of the experience and identify areas for improvement in future tour offerings.

Tour Operator Salary & Outlook

Tour Operator salaries vary based on experience, niche market expertise (e.g., adventure, luxury, cultural tours), language skills, and the complexity of tours managed. Additionally, the size and reputation of the employing company, along with the individual’s negotiation skills and client satisfaction rates, significantly influence earnings.

  • Median Annual Salary: $51,975 ($24.99/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $80,500 ($38.7/hour)

The employment of tour operators is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing global travel demand, a rising interest in unique, personalized travel experiences, and the expansion of the middle class in emerging markets. Tour operators, adept at crafting tailored itineraries and navigating complex travel logistics, are essential in meeting these evolving consumer preferences.

Tour Operator Job Requirements

Education: A Tour Operator typically has diverse educational backgrounds, with many having completed some college courses, often in tourism, hospitality, or business management. High school diploma holders also qualify, ideally with subjects focused on geography, history, and languages. Those with Bachelor’s or Associate’s degrees usually major in travel, tourism management, or related fields, enhancing their understanding of global cultures, travel regulations, and customer service essentials. Education in marketing and communication is also beneficial for this role.

Experience: Tour operators often come from diverse backgrounds, with many entering the field with minimal to moderate experience. A significant portion starts with less than a year’s experience, indicating on-the-job training is common and crucial. This training encompasses customer service, itinerary planning, and safety protocols. Some individuals transition into the role with no prior experience, learning entirely through structured training programs offered by employers. Experience in travel planning, group management, and cultural knowledge is beneficial, highlighting the importance of adaptability and a keen interest in travel and culture. Continuous learning and skill development are key components of succeeding as a tour operator.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications and licenses for Tour Operators may vary by location but generally include a business license and, in some cases, a tour operator license. Specialized certifications such as the Certified Tour Professional (CTP) offered by the National Tour Association can enhance credibility but are not universally required. No specific certifications or licenses are universally mandated across all regions or types of tour operations.

Tour Operator Skills

Itinerary Planning: Selecting destinations and activities that align with clients’ preferences and comfort levels is crucial for tour operators. They must have a comprehensive understanding of local attractions, cultural nuances, and logistical considerations to craft journeys that are both leisurely and adventurous, ensuring a seamless and enriching travel experience.

Risk Management: Tour operators are tasked with identifying potential hazards and taking preventative actions to safeguard their clients’ safety and satisfaction. A meticulous attention to detail and the ability to foresee and address risks, ranging from natural disasters to health emergencies, are imperative for ensuring secure travel experiences.

Supplier Negotiation: Achieving favorable terms with hotels, transportation providers, and local attractions is critical for the profitability and competitiveness of tour packages. Effective negotiation skills, informed by an understanding of market trends and strong relationships, are necessary to secure deals that benefit both the company and its clients.

Customer Service Excellence: Handling inquiries, complaints, and special requests with patience and positivity is essential. Tour operators must efficiently resolve issues and proactively enhance the customer’s experience, transforming potential challenges into opportunities for outstanding service.

Destination Knowledge: Deep familiarity with the destinations offered is required, encompassing local customs, language nuances, and lesser-known attractions. This enables the creation of tours that are engaging, culturally enriching, and provide travelers with a memorable and authentic experience.

Multilingual Communication: The ability to communicate fluently in multiple languages facilitates effective interaction with a diverse clientele. It ensures that all participants fully comprehend the itinerary, safety instructions, and cultural nuances, allowing for more personalized and engaging experiences that foster a deeper connection between tourists and their destinations.

Tour Operator Work Environment

Tour operators often find themselves in a dynamic work environment, where the office can range from a traditional desk setting to the great outdoors, depending on the day’s needs. The workspace is equipped with standard office tools and specialized software for planning and booking tours, requiring a good grasp of technology.

Work hours can be irregular, with peak seasons dictating longer days and the possibility of work on weekends and holidays. The dress code tends to be casual but may require formal attire for meetings with partners or clients.

The role is inherently social, involving constant interaction with clients, vendors, and team members, making a collaborative and adaptable culture crucial. Travel is a significant component, offering opportunities to explore new destinations but also demanding flexibility and resilience.

Health and safety are paramount, especially when conducting tours, necessitating knowledge of first aid and emergency procedures. The pace can be fast, balancing multiple tours and clients, requiring excellent organizational skills and a calm demeanor.

Professional development is encouraged, with many companies offering training in new destinations, languages, or tour management software, supporting career growth within the industry.

Advancement Prospects

Tour operators can advance their careers by specializing in niche markets, such as eco-tourism or adventure travel, to cater to specific client interests and stand out in the industry. Developing a deep understanding of a particular region or type of travel can lead to becoming a sought-after expert, potentially opening opportunities for higher-level positions within larger travel companies or the foundation for a successful independent business.

Progression can also come from embracing technology, utilizing digital marketing, and social media to enhance customer engagement and expand market reach. This digital proficiency can lead to roles in digital strategy or marketing within the travel sector.

Leadership roles are another advancement path. With experience, a tour operator can transition into managerial positions, overseeing teams, or entire operations. This might involve strategic planning, financial management, and business development responsibilities, contributing to the broader success of a travel organization.

What Does a Placement Coordinator Do?

What does a fire safety officer do, you may also be interested in..., what does a receiving associate do, what does a customer success lead do, how to become a propane delivery driver: step-by-step guide.

special tour operator meaning

16 HVAC Design Engineer Skills for Your Career and Resume

Travel lingo: What’s the difference between a Tour Operator and a Ground Operator?

Like any specialized industry, the travel world can be full of confusing insider lingo that’s difficult for ordinary people to understand. It can get so bad that even we often have to Google some of the terms and acronyms that get thrown around, and we’ve been at it for 15+ years!

Two questions we get asked quite often – which are particularly relevant given Journeys Within’s recent decision to give away our ground operations businesses in Southeast Asia to focus exclusively on being a tour operator – are…

special tour operator meaning

The Ground Operations team of Journeys Within’s Cambodia office.

What’s the difference between a Tour Operator and a Ground Operator?

Tour Operator:  An agent or agency that designs tour packages for travelers. Normally a package will include: airfare, ground transportation, accommodations and guide services (which the Tour Operator will book through local ground operators). Tour Operators book and pay for services on behalf of their clients, working with multiple agencies, and clients pay the Tour Operator for the full package.

Journeys Within has been a Tour Operator from the very beginning, and will continue to be as we transition away from our Ground Operations units.

Ground Operator: A local agency that provides services such as transportation and guide services. Generally, Ground Operators work with Tour Operators, but at times will work directly with clients.

In the beginning, Journeys Within also played the role of a Ground Operator for our clients, with local offices in the countries we serve. This was out of necessity at first, because we wanted such a high level of control at the local level to ensure our clients had incredible experiences while on tour. However, as our local staff has grown into leadership roles, we are now confident that they will be able to continue providing the incredible service levels our clients expect without the direct oversight from the U.S. office (of course, we’ll still be in close contact).

special tour operator meaning

Andrea, her kids, and Narla on an inspection of new touring options in Cambodia.

Why would a traveler want to work with a Tour Operator vs. a Ground Operator?

A Tour Operator’s focus is creating the full tour that the guest is looking for. We understand the guest’s needs and can translate that into the trip that they’re looking for.

Tour Operators understand travel from the traveler’s perspective.

With a Tour Operator, you can pick up the phone and call someone in the U.S. to plan and discuss your trip details.

As a Tour Operator, we have traveled the region extensively, so you get the on-the-ground knowledge of a ground operator, but the service of a local travel agency.

When booking through an accredited Tour Operator, you know that you have the security of the U.S. travel regulations protecting your travel investment.

A Ground Operator is generally less expensive, but they are harder to reach as they are based locally, so you have to deal with time differences and often have limited English-speaking office staff.

Ground Operators tend to focus on working with Tour Operators who are their main clients vs. individual travelers.

Ground Operators focus on a local region. Therefore, if you’re looking to travel to multiple areas within one trip, you’ll need to book through multiple ground operators and coordinate the transfers between those regions on your own.

April Cole

View April Cole's latest blog posts

Related tours.

Understanding the Role of a Tour Operator in the Travel Industry

A tour operator plays a crucial role in the travel industry by organizing and arranging travel packages for individuals or groups. They act as an intermediary between travelers and various travel service providers, ensuring that all aspects of a trip are well-coordinated and executed seamlessly. In this comprehensive glossary article, we will delve into the intricacies of what a tour operator is, the services they provide, and the key responsibilities they undertake to offer travelers a memorable and hassle-free experience.

Definition of a Tour Operator

A tour operator is a company or individual that designs, organizes, and sells travel packages to various destinations. These packages often include a combination of transportation, accommodation, meals, activities, and other services tailored to meet the needs and preferences of different types of travelers. Tour operators work closely with travel agents, hotels, airlines, and other service providers to create comprehensive and well-planned itineraries for their clients.

Services Provided by Tour Operators

Tour operators offer a wide range of services to cater to the diverse needs of travelers. Some of the key services provided by tour operators include:

  • Creating customized travel packages based on the preferences and budget of clients.
  • Booking transportation, including flights, trains, buses, and rental cars.
  • Arranging accommodation at hotels, resorts, lodges, or other types of lodging.
  • Organizing guided tours, excursions, and activities at various destinations.
  • Providing assistance with visa applications, travel insurance, and other travel-related documentation.
  • Offering 24/7 customer support and emergency assistance during the trip.

Key Responsibilities of a Tour Operator

Tour operators are responsible for managing all aspects of a traveler's journey, from the initial planning stages to the completion of the trip. Some of the key responsibilities of a tour operator include:

  • Researching and selecting destinations, attractions, and accommodations for travel packages.
  • Negotiating contracts with airlines, hotels, and other service providers to secure the best rates for clients.
  • Creating detailed itineraries that outline the day-to-day activities and logistics of the trip.
  • Coordinating transportation, accommodation, meals, and activities to ensure a seamless travel experience.
  • Providing travelers with all necessary information, including travel documents, packing lists, and safety tips.
  • Monitoring the progress of the trip and addressing any issues or concerns that may arise during the journey.
  • Collecting feedback from clients to improve future travel packages and services.

Types of Tour Operators

There are several types of tour operators that cater to different segments of the travel market. Some of the most common types of tour operators include:

  • Inbound Tour Operators: These operators specialize in organizing travel packages for foreign tourists visiting a specific destination or country.
  • Outbound Tour Operators: These operators cater to local travelers looking to explore international destinations.
  • Domestic Tour Operators: These operators focus on arranging travel packages for travelers exploring their own country.
  • Adventure Tour Operators: These operators specialize in organizing adventurous and outdoor activities, such as hiking, trekking, and camping.
  • Luxury Tour Operators: These operators offer high-end travel packages with luxury accommodations, private transportation, and exclusive experiences.

Benefits of Using a Tour Operator

There are several benefits to using a tour operator when planning a trip. Some of the key advantages include:

  • Expertise and Knowledge: Tour operators have in-depth knowledge of destinations, attractions, and travel logistics, ensuring a well-planned and memorable trip.
  • Convenience: Tour operators handle all aspects of trip planning, from booking flights to arranging activities, saving travelers time and effort.
  • Cost Savings: Tour operators often have access to discounted rates and special deals from service providers, helping travelers save money on their trip.
  • Peace of Mind: Tour operators provide 24/7 support and assistance during the trip, giving travelers peace of mind and security.
  • Customization: Tour operators can tailor travel packages to meet the specific needs and preferences of individual travelers, ensuring a personalized and unique experience.

In conclusion, a tour operator plays a vital role in the travel industry by offering travelers a convenient, well-planned, and memorable travel experience. From creating customized travel packages to coordinating transportation and activities, tour operators handle all aspects of trip planning to ensure a hassle-free journey for their clients. By understanding the services provided, key responsibilities undertaken, and benefits offered by tour operators, travelers can make informed decisions when planning their next adventure.

Upgrade Your Account

Select currency... eur €2.75/month (free 7-day trial) gbp £2.30/month (free 7-day trial) inr ₹199/month (free 7-day trial) usd $2.99/month (free 7-day trial).

  • Unlimited Custom Itineraries for Trips up to 20 Days See Example
  • Full access to extra itinerary information
  • Customized Restaurant Lists For Your Itineraries
  • Private Itineraries
  • No Advertisements
  • Standard Customer Support

Select Currency... EUR €4.49/month (Free 7-Day Trial) GBP £3.99/month (Free 7-Day Trial) INR ₹299/month (Free 7-Day Trial) USD $4.99/month (Free 7-Day Trial)

  • Unlimited Custom Itineraries for Trips up to 30 Days See Example
  • Latest AI For The Most Up To Date Info (As of April 2023)
  • Priority Customer Support

"This is so awesome! We hired a travel agent for $200 and your AI just spit out almost exactly the same itinerary the agent planned for our honeymoon in Greece!"

"This is super cool. I did three days in a relatively small town, and it came up with a nice sounding trip (relaxation focused)."

- Redditor StillKickinginAZ

"This is incredible"

- Jenny Turner

A blue and gray logo with the words,'advertising hub '

How do Tour Operators Work?

To unlock the tourism industry's business and leisure travel potential, you must understand how tour operators work.

From package holidays to bespoke tours, tour operators make memorable holidays. Whether you're a domestic operator focusing on your country's destinations or an outbound operator designing trips abroad, this guide is for you.

The Role of Tour and Activity Providers

At the heart of the travel industry, tour operators like you, whether inbound or outbound, design travel packages that simplify things for tourists. This involves meticulous planning of land arrangements, accommodation, tours, and transport.

As a tour company, you may specialize in specific types of trips, such as leisure travel or business trips, creating packages that cater to your target market's preferences.

What are the different types of tour operators?

  • Domestic Tour Operators : Focusing on the domestic tourism market, these operators provide travel packages within their home country.
  • Outbound Tour Operators : These companies design holiday packages for travelers visiting other countries, often incorporating international destinations into their itineraries.
  • Inbound Tour Operators : Inbound operators cater to tourists coming into their host country, providing local insights and experiences.
  • Ground Tour Operators : Often known as ground operators, these firms handle local arrangements in the destination country, often working in collaboration with other tour operators.

How do tour operators work with accommodation and transport providers?

special tour operator meaning

Tour operators play a pivotal role in crafting the perfect travel experience, and a big part of this involves working closely with accommodation and transport providers. Here's a glimpse at how this collaboration typically works:

Building Relationships with Accommodation Providers

  • Negotiating Rates : Tour operators negotiate contracts with hotels and resorts to secure competitive rates. This often involves bulk booking or agreeing on fixed rates for a certain period.
  • Customizing Guest Experiences : They work with these providers to tailor lodging experiences that align with the overall theme of the tour, whether it's luxury, adventure, or cultural immersion.
  • Ensuring Quality and Standards : Regular inspections and feedback mechanisms are put in place to ensure that the accommodation meets the expectations and standards required for their clients.

Partnering with Transport Providers

  • Seamless Logistics : Tour operators coordinate with various transport providers, including airlines, bus companies, and car rental services, to manage the logistics of getting travelers from one point to another.
  • Group Deals and Scheduling : They often negotiate deals for group travel and ensure that transportation schedules align seamlessly with the overall tour itinerary.
  • Quality and Safety Checks : Ensuring travelers' comfort and safety is paramount, so tour operators regularly check the quality of vehicles and the reliability of transport services.

Creating Cohesive Travel Packages

By integrating accommodation and transport seamlessly, tour operators create cohesive and hassle-free travel packages. This integration is crucial in providing a smooth and enjoyable experience for travelers, where every aspect of their journey is well-coordinated and managed.

Adapting to Client Needs

Tour operators remain flexible and responsive to their clients' needs, often customizing aspects of accommodation and transport to cater to specific preferences or requirements.

To summarize, negotiating strategically, ensuring quality, and meticulous planning are crucial to the relationship between tour operators, accommodation providers, and transport providers. In order to deliver great travel experiences that aren't just fun, they must be safe, comfortable, and just right to match discerning travelers' expectations.  

How do tour operators work with travel agents and OTAs?

special tour operator meaning

Tour operators team up with travel agents and OTAs? It's like having the best of both worlds in the travel industry.

Here's the lowdown: travel agents are like sales gurus. They've got the skills to match your cool tour packages with travelers looking for their next adventure. It's all about personal touches and making travelers feel special.

Now, let's talk about OTAs – think big names like Expedia and Booking.com . These guys are your ticket to the global stage. They're not just about showing off your tours; they're about connecting you with travelers from all over, 24/7. Plus, with their smart marketing tools and the power of customer reviews (which, let's face it, are gold in our world), you're setting yourself up for some serious visibility and street cred.

Combining travel agents' personal selling charm with OTAs' global reach is how tour packages stand out in this competitive market.  

Talking about creating packages, how can you work with accommodation and transportation providers?

How to create inclusive tour packages?

special tour operator meaning

As a tour provider, crafting appealing and inclusive tour packages, also known as package holidays or package tours, is key to attracting travelers.

These packages bundle services like flights, accommodations, and transportation for a hassle-free experience. Here’s how you can create comprehensive offers:

  • Understand Your Travelers : Know who you’re designing for. Are they families, solo travelers, or adventure seekers? Tailoring your packages to fit their preferences is crucial.
  • Forge Strong Relationships with Suppliers : Collaborate closely with accommodation and transportation providers. Strong partnerships can lead to better rates and unique offerings, making your packages more attractive.
  • Quality Over Quantity : When choosing hotels and transportation options, prioritize quality. A well-selected hotel or comfortable transport experience can elevate your entire package.
  • Flexibility is Key : Offer flexibility in your packages. Options for room upgrades, transport preferences, or even alternative activities can make your package more appealing to a diverse range of travelers.
  • Highlight Unique Experiences : Include special experiences travelers can’t find elsewhere. Unique local tours or exclusive access to attractions can make your package stand out.
  • Transparent Pricing : Ensure transparency in pricing. Hidden costs discourage travelers. Clear, upfront pricing builds trust and satisfaction.
  • Feedback Loop : Regularly gather feedback from your customers and adjust your packages accordingly. Continuous improvement based on customer insights can significantly enhance your offerings.

By focusing on these areas, you can create inclusive tour packages that meet but exceed the expectations of your travelers, ensuring memorable and hassle-free trips.

How do tour operators pay suppliers?

For tour operators, establishing and maintaining a solid financial relationship with suppliers — including accommodation and transportation providers — is crucial for a smooth and successful business and tour operation itself. Here's a look at how these payments are typically managed:

Advance Payments and Deposits

Tour operators often make advance payments or deposits to secure services well ahead of tour dates. This is especially common with hotels and special activities that require early booking.

Credit Facilities and Post-Payment Agreements

In some cases, tour operators may have credit arrangements with suppliers, allowing them to pay after the service is delivered. This requires a high level of trust and a proven track record of reliable payments.

Bulk Payment Contracts

For regular or frequent services, operators might negotiate bulk payment contracts. Under these agreements, they pay a lump sum for a specified number of services or bookings over a period, often at a discounted rate.

Net Rate Agreements

Suppliers may offer net rates to tour operators, which are discounted prices exclusive of commissions. The domestic tour operators then mark up these rates when selling to customers, and the difference forms their profit margin.

Direct Billing for Services

In some collaborations, suppliers might directly bill the tour operator for services rendered, usually after completion.

Electronic Payments and Wire Transfers

With the digitalization of financial transactions, most payments are now made electronically. This ensures quick, secure, and traceable transactions.

Managing Currencies and Exchange Rates

For international tours, operators must adeptly manage payments in different currencies, considering exchange rates and transaction fees.

Contingency Funds for Unforeseen Expenses

Operators often set aside contingency funds to cover unexpected costs or last-minute bookings, ensuring that the tour runs smoothly without financial hiccups.

Why is the booking process so important for selling tours?

special tour operator meaning

The booking process is crucial in the tour industry for several key reasons:

  • First Impression Matters : This initial interaction sets the tone for customer experience and expectations.
  • Ease Equals Sales : A simple, user-friendly booking system encourages more purchases.
  • Trust Building : A smooth process builds trust, showing customers that they’re dealing with a professional operator.
  • Upselling Opportunities : During the booking, there’s a chance to offer additional services or upgrades, enhancing the experience and increasing revenue.
  • Data for Personalization : The information collected can be used to tailor future offerings and improve service.
  • Effective Communication : This stage is vital for conveying key tour information and ensuring customer understanding.
  • Reputation Impact : A positive experience can lead to recommendations and positive reviews, while a negative one can harm the operator's reputation.
  • Resource Management : Understanding booking trends helps manage tours and resources.

In short, the booking process isn't just about securing sales; it's about shaping the entire customer journey, from first impressions to post-tour feedback.

Tips for Operators

Invest in a good, easy-to-use, and cost-effective booking software solution. Granted, it may incur some fees on your part, but think of the heavy lifting it does for you.

It does more than take reservations and bookings. It saves you tons of time with manual tracking, guest follow-up, and ticket management. It also eases the customer journey from point one to post-tour feedback.

Booking software solutions like TicketingHub save you stress and ease your guests. It charges 3% only for successful bookings.

Trusted by Egypt Sound and Light Shows, The Immersive Gamebox, Secret Food Tours, Sipsmith Distillery , and a hundred folds more - this software solution is jam-packed with time-saving features in an easy-interfaced navigation.

Whatever software solution you pick, aim for the solution that saves you time from needless complexities in design and usability - all while helping you stay profitable and leaving your guests satisfied right from the booking page.

Conclusion: Making Great Tours Happen

In wrapping up, it's clear that being a tour operator is about connecting the dots to create amazing travel experiences. Whether you're showing off the best spots in your own country or taking people on adventures abroad, the key is in the details – from picking great hotels to organizing smooth rides.

Your partnerships with local travel agencies, agents and OTAs are super important too. They help you reach more people and make sure your tours stand out. And when making tour packages, remember to listen to what travelers want and keep things flexible and interesting.

Don't forget, managing your money well, especially when paying for services, keeps everything running smoothly. And the booking process? That's your chance to make a great first impression and keep things hassle-free for your customers.

So, there you have it – mix in a bit of planning, a dash of good relationships, and a sprinkle of creativity, and you're on your way to creating trips that travelers will love. Happy touring!

FAQ Section

How important are tour operators.

Tour operators play a pivotal role in the tourism industry. They create and organize tour packages, catering to both business and leisure travelers. These packages simplify travel arrangements, offering hassle-free travel.

Tour operators are the key architects of memorable trips, ensuring travelers can explore various destinations easily.

What is the life of a tour operator?

Tour operators plan meticulously and collaborate with various stakeholders. They work closely with outbound and inbound tour operators, accommodation and transport providers, and even travel agents and online travel agencies (OTAs).

Their goal is to create appealing package holidays, manage travel arrangements, and provide tourism products that meet their target market's preferences.

What are the strengths of tour operators?

Tour operators have several strengths, including the ability to create inclusive tour packages that simplify travel for tourists. They can specialize in various categories, such as business or leisure travel. They can also collaborate with distribution partners like travel agents and OTAs to reach a wider audience.

Tour operators leverage market data to sell directly to their target market, offering tourism products that cater to different preferences.

What's the difference between a tour operator and a travel agent?

Tour operators and travel agents serve different roles in the travel industry. Tour operators design and create tour packages, manage travel logistics, and provide tourism products.

Travel agents, on the other hand, act as intermediaries between travelers and tour operators or suppliers. They assist customers in choosing and booking the right travel options, including tours created by tour operators, but they don't create the tours themselves.

Get the latest news and stay in touch with the industry secrets.

By clicking "Subscribe", you agree to our Privacy Policy and the data we do collect.

Online Travel Booking Tool: How Magic Link is Solving the Rebooking Problem

Online Travel Booking Tool: How Magic Link is Solving the Rebooking Problem

FareHarbor vs Rezdy vs TicketingHub: Honest Tour Booking Software Comparison Guide

FareHarbor vs Rezdy vs TicketingHub: Honest Tour Booking Software Comparison Guide

Why Online Reputation Management Is Important for Tour Operators

Why Online Reputation Management Is Important for Tour Operators

How to Craft a Perfect Tourism FAQs Page for Your Tours

How to Craft a Perfect Tourism FAQs Page for Your Tours

Keep Reading

special tour operator meaning

Navigating Success: Essential Business Tips for Tour Business Owners

We've compiled a comprehensive guide of essential business tips tailored specifically for tour business owners.

special tour operator meaning

Discover how tour operators create seamless travel experiences through great partnerships, flexible packages, and easy booking processes.

special tour operator meaning

  • Skip to primary navigation
  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar


Six of the best specialist travel companies

Updated on August 9 by Mark Hodson

If you want a special travel experience, you should try one of the these specialist travel companies.

As the big names in travel increasingly dominate the market, it’s easy to forget the little guys – the small independent operators that stick to a single destination and know it inside out.

Many of these companies are owned and managed by true enthusiasts, who can take you beyond the brochure clichés to an authentic and unspoilt part of the country. Here are six of the best.

Best for Italy: Bellini Travel

Who they are: founder Emily FitzRoy provides insider tours of Italy, getting under the skin of the country and offering unique experiences. She works with only about 70 clients a year.

Why they’re good: Bellini can achieve what might appear to be impossible, whether it’s a royal box at La Scala or a private evening visit to the Sistine Chapel. But it’s not all glitz: FitzRoy knows Venice backwards and enjoys taking clients off the tourist trail to trattoria in the working class district of Cannareggio and to eat seafood at fishermen’s huts on the lagoon.

Best for Greece: Travel à la Carte

Who they are: founded in 1979 by Tony Wells and his late wife Mary, it is one of the last remaining family-owned holiday specialists to the Mediterranean. It has survived by focusing on small islands including Symi, Halki and Paxos.

Why they’re good: with two directors living year-round in Greece, Travel à la Carte knows its islands intimately and provides great customer service (it claims a client satisfaction rating of 9.9 out of 10). With no charter flights to sell, it can also offer total flexibility on arrival and departure dates.

Best for Japan: Inside Japan Tours

Who they are: founders Alastair Donnelly and Simon King met at university, worked as English teachers in Japan then decided to set up a specialist travel company. They offer private travel, group tours and self-guided tours for all budgets.

Why they’re good: the core team all speak Japanese, travel regularly to the country and have great local contacts – handy if you want to enter the Tokyo Marathon or arrange an evening with a geisha in Kyoto. They provide honest expert advice and go the extra mile. For one client staying at a luxury hotel in Tokyo, they hand-delivered gluten-free soy sauce from Nagoya, a round trip of 600 miles.

Best for America: Bon Voyage

See Central Park in New York with specialist travel companies like Bon Voyage

Who they are: US fanatics Alan Wilson and Alan Orsmond started the company as a specialist travel agency in the late 1970s then focussed on creating their own tours to America.

Why they’re good: the company only employs staff that have lived or travelled extensively in the States and share the founders’ love of the country. Knowledgable sales staff combined with keen pricing keep the clients coming back.

Best for India: Greaves

Who they are: founded in 1973, Greaves is a family-owned company that offers private escorted tours of the Indian subcontinent. Managing director Mehra Dalton campaigns actively for sustainable tourism and is co-founder of Jaisalmer in Jeopardy.

Why they’re good: travel in India can be – shall we say – unpredictable. Greaves has a reputation for total reliability, ensuring every client is met on arrival with a private car and chauffeur, and ironing out every detail of every trip.

Best for Croatia: Completely Croatia

Enjoy the islands of Croatia with specialist travel companies like Completely Croatia

Who they are: founder Alison Jago spent 20 years in the travel industry before deciding her employers were getting it wrong and she could do better on her own. Completely Croatia specialises in small boutique properties and family-run hotels neglected by the larger tour operators.

Why they’re good: clients enjoy the personal service, with the same consultant dealing with them at every stage from initial enquiry to post-holiday follow-up. Good relations with hoteliers mean lots of free upgrades and surprise extras. Jago claims to have had just one customer complaint in five years of operation.

Images of Venice, Tokyo and India by Mark Hodson

About Mark Hodson

Follow mark hodson, reader interactions, leave a comment.

israel vacation rentals says

September 14 at 3:03 pm

Thank you for the info I’m traveling a lot and will certainly check one of the companies here.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tourpreneur Travel Business Community

Tour Operator Terminology

On this page we’ll try to clearly define the terms you need to know to run a tour business, and interact in our  Tourpreneur Facebook Group .

General Tour Industry Terms

  • Tour This is a catch-all term that implies a type of travel experience that takes place over time, generally visiting multiple sights. It could last 1 hour or 30 days, and be done as a walk, or in vehicle. It could be a solo traveler or a group of 50 people. Other words might be used to describe the same thing:  tour, experience, journey, excursion , etc. It usually implies something organized, either by the traveler themselves, or a tour operator, who designs and delivers a tour for a traveler or group of travelers.
  • Guest/Customer/Client/Passenger/Participant/Traveler Thanks to Disney,  guest  is what we generally use to refer to our customers. Why the difference? “Customer” implies a financial relationship, whereas  guest  relates more to a personal connection and a sense of welcome and hospitality. But it’s the same as customer, passenger (PAX), traveler, etc., and different companies will prefer different terminology.
  • Guide / Tour Guide / Tourist Guide “tour guide” is used more often in Anglophone countries, especially in the U.S., whereas “Tourist Guide” is used in Europe and elsewhere globally.
  • Tour Leader/Tour Director/Tour Manager/Tour Escort/Trip Leader This role goes by many different names. It refers to a guide who works over multiple days, usually traveling with a group of guests to multiple cities or regions. In addition to delivering commentary about the locations visited, a tour leader also handles the tour logistics, including working with the motor coach driver, staying on schedule, checking into hotels, meals and activities on time. 
  • Interpreter A guide working often at National Parks or heritage sights; interpretation theory is a 100-year old body of theoretical work focused on strategies for helping individuals make their audience connect with and care for the site that’s being interpreted.
  • Docent The name sometimes used for a guide usually in a museum or cultural heritage sight.
  • Day Tour A type of experience that begins and ends in the same day. Usually used to distinguish an experience from a multi-day tour.
  • Multi-Day Tour Any type of experience that lasts for more than one day. Often includes hotels, meals, short activities, and a form of transportation.
  • Package Tour A kind of experience (usually multi-day) in which several different components are bundled together: it may or may not include airfare, hotels, guided experiences, meals, etc.
  • Group Tour You’ll see these terms used differently to a kind of experience in which separate individuals or smaller groups come together to share an experience. Group tours can be  public  or  private .
  • Public Tour As the name implies, this is a tour that’s open to the general public to sign up. The tour therefore consists of a variety of people who don’t already know each other. A public tour is usually offered at a set time and day.
  • Private Tour A tour that is sold specifically to an already-organized group of travelers who don’t wish to experience the tour with others. A private tour might be a couple, a small group of friends, or a large church group. Private tours might be at a set time, or organized according to group’s specific needs.
  • Custom Tour A custom tour is usually also a private tour.  Custom  refers to the operator crafting an experience customized to the specific demands of a client. A tour operator might be engaged by a client to design a unique experience, for one person or a large group.
  • Pre-Formed/Affinity Group These are commonly used terms in the multi-day tour space to refer to a group tour not made up of individual solo travelers & couples, but instead of an alread-formed large group of travelers. An “affinity group” shares a common trait—they belong to a church, a retirement community, or a family reunion traveling together, for example. A pre-formed group might also be created by a “Group Leader” who sells a tour  for  a tour operator ,  often in exchange for a free trip or a commission.
  • Escorted Tour Used most often in the multi-day tour space, an escorted tour means you’re traveling with an escort (old fashioned term), more commonly referred to today as a tour manager, tour director, tour leader, or trip leader. The TM’s job is to handle the logistics of keeping the group together, checked into hotels, arranging meals, etc. They work  for  the tour operator.
  • Guided Tour In short, an organized excursion led by an individual or individuals. “Tour Guide” is the generalized term, but a guide could be a museum “docent” or an adventure guide, tour leader, etc.
  • Self-Guided Tour This has two different meanings, one related to technology, one related to nature. When talking about mobile phone apps, a self-guided tour is one usually done in-destination using audio recordings and GPS data to guide an individual along a tour route, sharing recorded stories. In the world of adventure tours, a self-guided tour happens when an individual hires a tour operator to provide guidance in the form of itineraries, maps, possibly technology, all to facilitate an extended journey involving walking, hiking, biking, etc.
  • FAM Tour A “familiarization” tour, focused on helping one set of professionals (travel agents, for example) learn about a destination, or about vendors in an area. A group of tour guides might take a FAM tour to a new attraction that opened in town, to become familiar with it. A group of travel agents might sign up for a FAM to a destination that they’ll then sell to clients.
  • FIT Tour Very confusing term. It’s evolved over time. It once meant “foreign independent travel” but now is more often thought of as “flexible independent travel.” The goal is to distinguish this kind of independent traveler from someone who buys into a packaged group tour. FIT is more associated with a client who engages with a travel agent or operator to design something that suits their specific customized needs. 
  • Activity An activity is usually different than a tour in that it is less about guided sightseeing and more about doing something, well, activity based. Examples might be watersports, biking, hiking, etc.
  • Attraction Think amusement parks, museums, and the Eiffel Tower. What do they all have in common? They require tickets, they’re single place-based experiences, and rather than do them in groups, thousands of people pour in at once, with no specific booked time requirements (unless doing so for crowd control or pandemic related reasons).
  • “Tours & Activities Industry” This is just one of many ways to talk about our industry. You’ll also hear Tours, Attractions & Activities, 
  • DMO/CVB/Tourism Board A Tourism Board or Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) or Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) are all essentially the same thing. — an organization (public, private, or a mix) whose goal it is to promote a destination, be it a city, region or country. Examples include  NYC & Company  and  Visit Scotland .
  • MICE Pronounced like the animal, stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events. From a tour perspective, this is where an operator might work with a CVB (see above) to organize tours for business customers hosting or attending a conference in a location. Incentive tours are reward experiences that a company offers a group of employees.
  • B2B Tour operators who work with other operators 

Types of Tour Operators

  • Tour Operator A business that organizes and sells tours. They sell to a customer, and possibly work with vendors (hotels, restaurants, vehicle companies, etc.) to create an organized tour experience. In short, operators do the grunt work.
  • Travel Agent/Agency In general, an agency works with travelers, and books travel components to relieve the traveler’s burden of figuring it out on their own. An agency might book a tour operator’s tour as part of the services they provide the travel, in exchange for a commission from the operator.
  • [insert word here]  Operator Tour Operator is a general term, but that’s not the only kind of operator out there. You might also be an adventure operator, watersports operator, ATV rental operator, you name it. But in all cases, you’re not an agency booking someone else’s service, you’re providing the service yourself.
  • Day (or Multi-Day) Tour Operator Both are subsets of “tour operators” in general. It might be used in the Tourpreneur community when we’re referring to the specific challenges of a specific kind of operator, since the products and challenges of each type of tour can be very different.
  • Inbound / Receptive Operator /  DMC (destination management company) These are all versions of the same thing, with terminology that is sometimes preferred over the other words for various reasons. This kind of tour operator creates experiences in a certain location (often a specific city or a region or country), working B2B with tour operators or corporate entities needing local knowledge and connections.  Receptive operator  is an older term meaning they “receive” clients who are coming in (or inbound) from somewhere else.
  • Outbound Operator This version of tour operator (usually multi-day) designs experiences that take guests elsewhere. An outbound operator might be based somewhere (Australia, for example) but focus on creating trips that send their Australian customers outbound to other countries.

Sales, Marketing & Software Terms

  • SEO Search Engine Optimization—the art of optimizing your website and online presence to bring your content to the top of search engine results (principally Google).
  • PPC Means “Pay-per-click” and references the kind of digital advertising done by companies like Google: you create an advertisement to appear in search engine results, for example, and you pay for that ad a specific market rate each time someone clicks on your link.
  • OTA Online Travel Agency—this is a catch-all term for a wide variety of online marketplaces servicing the travel industry, selling everything from rental cars to flights to hotels to tours. An OTA in the general industry might refer to big players like Expedia or Booking.com; in the tour industry, it refers to companies like Viator (the largest tour OTA) and GetYourGuide. There is a long tail of “niche OTAs” that serve specific types of tours and activities (like watersports) or a specific region.
  • Online Marketplace / Platform This is a more general term for the kind of website platform (like Viator) that sells a wide variety of tours online. Think Guide Marketplaces like ToursByLocals or Withlocals, companies that curate large amounts of guides, but aren’t traditional OTAs like viator.
  • Restech/Booking Software You’ll hear “restech” (alternately reztech, rez-tech, etc…) as a fast way to refer to the software industry centered around creating helping tour operators accept online bookings, and keep those bookings organized. The largest companies in this space work mainly with day tour operators.
  • Tour Operator Software Different than booking software/restech, TO software offers an extended suite of features meant to help operators across their whole business, from operators to itinerary proposals to budgeting and pricing. This software may include a booking/payment component, but is a much more fully integrated and holistic (and expensive) solution.
  • SaaS Short for “Software as a Service” — this is how the tech industry refers usually subscription-based websites or software that help you do something. Examples of SaaS include booking software and CRMs.
  • Supplier In the language of selling tours to customers on a platform, tour operators are suppliers; you  supply  tours that are then  re-sold  by the platform.
  • Connectivity This is the dark art of how you, the operator (supplier) connect to sales channels.
  • Distributor/Reseller These are sales channels that sell tickets to your tours on behalf of you. They could be everything from an online marketplace like Viator and GetYourGuide, to a personal travel agent or hotel concierge..
  • Channel Manager This is software that helps you manager all your different sales channels in one place.

special tour operator meaning

  • Business Guide
  • Destination Guide
  • Hotel Guide
  • Places to visit
  • Things to do

Different Types Of Tour Operators That You Should Know About

Types Of Tour Operators

Tour operators are an integral part of the travel industry. They play a crucial role in creating and selling travel packages to different destinations worldwide. A tour operator is a company that puts together travel packages, which usually include transportation, accommodation, and activities, and sells them to consumers. This blog will discuss the different types of tour operators and their roles in the travel industry. Knowing the types will help one to choose the better fit. 

Types of tour operators

As per the requirement, there are different types of tour operators in the travel industry. Some of these include inbound tour operators, outbound tour operators, domestic, specialist among others. Let us explore them one by one. 

1. Inbound Tour Operators

Inbound Tour Operators

Inbound tour operators organize and sell travel packages for visitors coming into the country. They are responsible for creating itineraries and ensuring that visitors have a memorable experience during their stay. They typically work with local suppliers, such as hotels, transportation companies, and tour guides, to assemble their packages.

2. Outbound Tour Operators

Outbound Tour Operators

Outbound tour operators are companies that organize and sell travel packages for consumers who are traveling out of their home country. They are responsible for creating itineraries and ensuring that travelers have everything they need for their trip. They work with local suppliers in the destination country to ensure everything is in place when their clients arrive.

3. Domestic Tour Operators

Domestic tour operators organize and sell travel packages within their home country. They specialize in creating tours that showcase the best that their country has to offer. They work with local suppliers, such as hotels, transportation companies, and attractions, to create their packages.

4. Specialist Tour Operators

Specialist tour operators focus on specific niches within the travel industry. They may specialize in adventure, education, luxury, or any other type of travel that appeals to a particular group of travelers. They typically have a deep knowledge of their niche and can create unique and memorable client experiences.

5. Travel Agency and Tour Operators

Travel Agency and Tour Operators

Travel agencies and tour operators are often used interchangeably, but there is a noticeable difference between the two. Travel agencies typically sell flights, hotels, and transportation, while tour operators create and sell complete travel packages that include activities and accommodation.

6. Luxury Tour Operators

Luxury tour operators create and sell high-end travel packages to discerning travelers. They typically offer personalized service, exclusive access to attractions and activities, and top-of-the-line accommodations. Luxury tour operators cater to travelers who are looking for a one-of-a-kind experience.

7. International Tour Operators

International Tour Operators

International tour operators are companies that create and sell travel packages to destinations around the world. They work with local suppliers in each destination to develop itineraries that showcase the best of what the goal has to offer.

8. Coach Tour Operators

Coach Tour Operators

Coach tour operators are companies that organize and sell tours that are conducted on a coach or bus. These tours typically cover a large area or several countries. They offer a convenient and affordable way to see multiple destinations in one trip.

9. Receptive Tour Operators

Receptive tour operators work with other tour operators to create travel packages for a specific destination. They are responsible for coordinating the local suppliers and ensuring that everything runs smoothly during the trip.

10. Adventure Tour Operators

Adventure tour operators specialize in creating and selling travel packages that offer outdoor activities and adventures. These tours may include hiking, rafting, or wildlife safaris and are designed for travelers looking for an adrenaline rush.

11. Educational Tour Operators

Educational tour operators create and sell travel packages that focus on educational experiences. These tours may include visits to historical sites, museums, or cultural events and are designed to give travelers a deeper understanding of the destination.

Why tour operators are crucial?

Tour operators play a vital role in the travel industry as they create and sell travel packages that offer unique and memorable experiences for travelers. By understanding the different types of tour operators, travelers can choose the right tour operator for their specific needs and preferences.

It’s also worth noting that many travel agencies also offer tour operator services, so it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable company with experience in the destinations and types of travel that interest you.

Whether planning a domestic trip or an international adventure, working with a tour operator can save time and hassle while providing unique and memorable travel experiences. In addition, many tour operators are now offering more sustainable travel options, such as eco-tourism and responsible travel. These tours aim to minimize the impact of tourism on the environment and local communities while providing travelers with unique and authentic travel experiences.

Another trend in the tour operator industry is using technology to enhance the travel experience. For example, some tour operators now use virtual reality to provide travelers with a preview of their destination or to offer immersive experiences during the trip. Tour operators will likely continue to adapt and innovate as the travel industry continues to evolve to meet travelers’ changing needs and preferences.

Suggested Read:  How to Become a Travel Agent

In summary, tour operators play a vital role in the travel industry, offering travelers a wide range of options and experiences. By understanding the different types of tour operators and their functions, travelers can make more informed choices when planning their trips. With the increasing focus on sustainability, responsible travel, and technological innovation, the tour operator industry is poised to continue growing and evolving in the years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what are the criteria for classifying tour operators.

Tour operators are classified based on the type of tour, their business, and their region of operation for package tours. This aids in comprehending the distinction between the meaning and function of each category. Inbound, outgoing, domestic, and ground operators are therefore included in the categorization.

2. Who do tour operators collaborate with?

Coordinating with bus companies, airlines, motels, and resort representatives. Service standards, contracts, and fees must be agreed upon. Customer names are confirmed with airlines/hotels.

3. What industry does a tour operator work in?

A tour operator is a hospitality expert that organizes tours and assists guests throughout their visits to ensure that they have a great experience. These experts advise consumers on various travel packages based on their budget and interests.

4. What is the role of an inbound tour operator?

An inbound tour operator specializes in organizing and selling travel packages for visitors coming into a specific country. They work on creating itineraries and ensuring a memorable experience for travelers by collaborating with local suppliers, including hotels, transportation companies, and tour guides.

5. What sets luxury tour operators apart?

Luxury tour operators create and sell high-end travel packages that cater to discerning travelers. These packages often include personalized services, exclusive access to attractions and activities, and top-of-the-line accommodations. Luxury tour operators focus on providing a unique and indulgent travel experience for their clients.

ravinder babbar

February 13, 2024

General , Travel Agent Guide , Uncategorized

Different Types Of Tour Operators , Tour Operators , Types Of Tour Operators

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Talk To Us!

Latest posts.

  • Date Night in Dubai: A Memorable Date with your Special Someone
  • Renting a Car in foreign Countries: A Comprehensive Guide
  • Top 10 Economical Restaurants in Dubai: Your Guide to Budget Eats
  • Sustainable Tourism Guide: Types, Planning And Sustainable Destinations
  • Legoland Water Park Dubai: Exciting Family Fun Awaits

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Cambridge Dictionary +Plus

Meaning of tour operator in English

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 audio

Examples of tour operator


Word of the Day


singing each musical note perfectly, at exactly the right pitch (= level)

Alike and analogous (Talking about similarities, Part 1)

Alike and analogous (Talking about similarities, Part 1)

special tour operator meaning

Learn more with +Plus

  • Recent and Recommended {{#preferredDictionaries}} {{name}} {{/preferredDictionaries}}
  • Definitions Clear explanations of natural written and spoken English English Learner’s Dictionary Essential British English Essential American English
  • Grammar and thesaurus Usage explanations of natural written and spoken English Grammar Thesaurus
  • Pronunciation British and American pronunciations with audio English Pronunciation
  • English–Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Simplified)–English
  • English–Chinese (Traditional) Chinese (Traditional)–English
  • English–Dutch Dutch–English
  • English–French French–English
  • English–German German–English
  • English–Indonesian Indonesian–English
  • English–Italian Italian–English
  • English–Japanese Japanese–English
  • English–Norwegian Norwegian–English
  • English–Polish Polish–English
  • English–Portuguese Portuguese–English
  • English–Spanish Spanish–English
  • English–Swedish Swedish–English
  • Dictionary +Plus Word Lists
  • Business    Noun
  • All translations

Add tour operator to one of your lists below, or create a new one.


Something went wrong.

There was a problem sending your report.


  1. What is a tour operator and how does it work?

    special tour operator meaning

  2. Tour Operator

    special tour operator meaning

  3. Who is Outbound Tour Operator? Tour Operator

    special tour operator meaning

  4. Difference Between Tour Operator and Travel Agent

    special tour operator meaning

  5. What is a tour operator and how does it work?

    special tour operator meaning

  6. Tour Operator

    special tour operator meaning


  1. Canadian Special Forces Operator Compares Military Units He Served With⚔️

  2. Day 55

  3. Special Forces Operator talks about going through depression between deployments

  4. Retail Traders को Operators ऐसे लूटते हैं!

  5. Operator trap intraday Trading strategy 😈 #intradaytrading #trading

  6. 🙌capture bank nifty move with RSI


  1. What is special interest tourism and why is it so popular?

    Special interest tourism (also known as specialist tourism or SIT), is a branch of niche tourism and alternative tourism. Essentially, special interest tourism is tourism which is tailored to a specific interest. There are many tour operators who focus their business on special interest tourism (and this number is growing).

  2. Who are Specialized Tour Operators?

    Any tour provider that offers services in a niche is a specialized tour operator. In recent years, there has been a rising interest in specialized tourism. For example, 2021 data shows that 68% of travelers are shifting towards sustainable tourism. Also, the Global Wellness Institute reports that 64% of travelers want wellness vacations.

  3. What Does a Specialist Tour Operator Do?

    This type of tour operator may work for a company that specializes in organizing such trips or as a freelance travel planner. The majority of specialized tour operators plan trips from start to finish. This includes arranging for air and ground transportation, as well as lodging and special events. In order to complete certain travel activities ...

  4. Tour Operators

    Tour operator is an organization, firm, or company who buys individual travel components, separately from their suppliers and combines them into a package tour, which is sold with their own price tag to the public directly or through middlemen, is called a Tour Operator. More precise tour operators are primarily responsible for delivering and ...

  5. The rise of specialist tour operators

    The rise of specialist tour operators, whether they are offering family holidays, safaris, specific wildlife watching, cycling, hiking, cross country skiing or sailing, inspires not only us but also our travellers. They might not have their own hotels, but they are bursting with chutzpah. And they might not have their own planes, but in terms ...

  6. What You Need to Know About Special Interest Tourism

    Tour operators must research areas of interest and offer activities and attractions that appeal to their target audience with practical perspective. ... Special interest tourism definition encompasses various niche markets and forms of tourism, including cultural sites, wellness tourism, adventure activities, sports tourism, and eco-tourism ...

  7. The rise of specialist tour operators

    Specialist tour operators. The rise of the specialist tour operators and why they'll be able to give you a better holiday compared to a large multi-national operator ... What appeals to an adult may not appeal to a child, but that doesn't mean they need to be left out. An operator in Peru found her nine-year-old daughter was left unimpressed ...

  8. Special Interest Tourism: Find Your Niche

    Special interest tourism focuses on providing leisure and adventure activities that cater to the needs of a specific audience. Tapping into your special interest niche will connect you to a smaller, yet highly-devoted audience. Think quality over quantity. In a sector that celebrates individuality and personalization, there is something for ...

  9. 5 facts you need to know about a specialist tour operator

    Booking with a tour operator gives you protection, inside knowledge and ultimately peace of mind allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy your holiday. 1. Best price Tour operators negotiate rates directly with the hotel, typically these will be 15-20% lower than the rate the hotel will charge the public for a direct booking. In exchange for ...

  10. What is a Tour Operator?

    Tour operators work closely with local suppliers, hotels, transportation providers, and guides to ensure that every aspect of your journey is thoughtfully planned and executed. The Benefits of Choosing a Tour Operator. Expertise and Local Insight: Tour operators possess in-depth knowledge of the destinations they offer. They have the ability to ...

  11. What Does a Tour Operator Do?

    The Tour Operator plays an essential role in the travel and tourism industry by designing, organizing, and conducting tours and travel packages for individuals or groups. They ensure that the travel experience is seamless, enjoyable, and enriching, taking care of logistics such as transportation, accommodation, and itinerary planning.

  12. Travel lingo: What's the difference between a Tour Operator and a

    Tour Operators understand travel from the traveler's perspective. With a Tour Operator, you can pick up the phone and call someone in the U.S. to plan and discuss your trip details. As a Tour Operator, we have traveled the region extensively, so you get the on-the-ground knowledge of a ground operator, but the service of a local travel agency

  13. What Are a Tour Operator's Roles? (Plus Skills and Education)

    A tour operator is a hospitality professional who organizes tours and provides support to customers during trips to help them have positive experiences. These professionals advise customers on different tour packages based on their budget and interests. They handle all logistical aspects of a tour, such as booking tickets and reserving ...

  14. Understanding the Role of a Tour Operator in the Travel Industry

    Definition of a Tour Operator A tour operator is a company or individual that designs, organizes, and sells travel packages to various destinations. These packages often include a combination of transportation, accommodation, meals, activities, and other services tailored to meet the needs and preferences of different types of travelers.

  15. What Do Tour Operators Do to Create Travel Experiences?

    Tour operators play a pivotal role in the tourism industry. They create and organize tour packages, catering to both business and leisure travelers. These packages simplify travel arrangements, offering hassle-free travel. Tour operators are the key architects of memorable trips, ensuring travelers can explore various destinations easily.

  16. Six of the best specialist travel companies

    Here are six of the best. Best for Italy: Bellini Travel. Who they are: founder Emily FitzRoy provides insider tours of Italy, getting under the skin of the country and offering unique experiences. She works with only about 70 clients a year. Why they're good: Bellini can achieve what might appear to be impossible, whether it's a royal box ...

  17. Tour Operator vs Travel Agent: What's the Difference?

    Here is a comparison of what a travel agent does and what a tour operator does: Aspect. Tour Operator. Travel Agent. Role. Creates and operates tour packages and itineraries. Sells tour packages, flights, hotels on behalf of suppliers. Services. Designs tours, contracts services, manages logistics.

  18. Tour operator

    A tour operator is a business that typically combines and organizes accommodations, meals, sightseeing and transportation components, [1] in order to create a package tour. They advertise and produce brochures to promote their products, holidays and itineraries. Tour operators can sell directly to the public or sell through travel agents or a ...

  19. Tour Operator Terminology

    Tour. This is a catch-all term that implies a type of travel experience that takes place over time, generally visiting multiple sights. It could last 1 hour or 30 days, and be done as a walk, or in vehicle. It could be a solo traveler or a group of 50 people. Other words might be used to describe the same thing: tour, experience, journey ...

  20. TOUR OPERATOR definition

    TOUR OPERATOR meaning: a company that makes arrangements for travel and places to stay, often selling these together as…. Learn more.

  21. Different Types Of Tour Operators That You Should Know About

    3. Domestic Tour Operators. Domestic tour operators organize and sell travel packages within their home country. They specialize in creating tours that showcase the best that their country has to offer. They work with local suppliers, such as hotels, transportation companies, and attractions, to create their packages.


    TOUR OPERATOR definition: a company that makes arrangements for travel and places to stay, often selling these together as…. Learn more.