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The Characteristics of Tour Operators and Travel Agents

Tour Operators
Tour Operators is a person or company that organizes and sells package tours or holidays. A tour operator typically combines tour and travel components to create a holiday. The most common example of a tour operator's product would be a flight on a charter airline plus a transfer from the airport to a hotel and the services of a local representative, all for one price. The original reason for existence of tour operating was the difficulty of making arrangements in far-flung places, with problems of language, currency and communication. The advent of the internet has led to a rapid increase in self-packaging of holidays. However, tour operators still have their competence in arranging tours for those who do not have time to do DIY holidays, and specialize in large group events and meetings such as conferences or seminars. Also, tour operators still exercise contracting power with suppliers (airlines, hotels, other land arrangements, cruises, etc.) and influence over other entities (tourism boards and other government authorities) in order to create packages and special departures for destinations otherwise difficult and expensive to visit.

The top major tour operators association in the Philippines is the, Blue Horizons Travel and Tours, Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) and Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) etc.

Characteristics of the Tour Operators

Two major trends that characterise the tour operating industry:

• Concentration and integration: The package holiday market is dominated by a very small number of internationally operating tour operators. The main trends in the industry are economies of scale, horizontal and vertical integration. Through these strategies, tour-operators can achieve considerable buying power and control over their suppliers, as well as the distribution of their products. Horizontal integration refers to a situation when companies join together with the aim to remove competition, to increase economies of scale, and to increase purchasing power.

• Specialisation: Intense integration practices have also led to increased specialisation and the development of niche operators and niche products. Small and medium size operators have to compete with larger, integrated companies. Independent tour operators compete by providing high quality, specialist and tailor-made services, which is responding to the trend that holidaymakers are becoming more discerning about the holidays that they take. They often specialise in geographical areas or activities.

Travel Agents
Travel agents assist travellers by sorting through vast amounts of information to help their clients make the best possible travel arrangements. Travel agents offer advice on destinations and make arrangements for transportation, hotel accommodations, car rentals, and tours for their clients. In addition, resorts and specialty travel groups use travel agents to promote travel packages to their clients. Travel agents are expected to be able to advise travellers about their destinations, such as the weather conditions, local ordinances and customs, attractions, and exhibitions.

Travel agents use a variety of published and computer-based sources for information on departure and arrival times, fares, quality of hotel accommodations, and group discounts. They may also visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants themselves to evaluate the comfort, cleanliness, and the quality of specific hotels and restaurants so that they can base recommendations on their own experiences or those of colleagues or clients. Many travel agents specialize in specific destinations or regions; others specialize in travel targeted to particular demographic groups, such as senior citizens. Travel agents who primarily work for tour operators and other travel arrangers may help develop, arrange, and sell the company's own package tours and travel services....
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