Travel Agent and Tour Operator – What role do they play?
The Travel Agent
The travel agent is who we need when we think about going on holiday. They don't create the trip, they distribute it, and travel agents need tour operators because the tour operator creates the tour plans, so, fundamentally Travel Agents and Tour Operators work together to bring about a final product – your holiday. The travel agency becomes an advisor and provides the customer (you) with a general idea about the trip when he or she walks into their office or logs onto their website. A travel agency can specialise in a particular destination or a specific trip type, like adventure, fishing, rock climbing, or perhaps in a near future, space.
The Tour Operator
A tour operator produces the trip, creates it. At least six months prior to the tourist season (there are 2 seasons: Autumn/Winter from November – April and Spring/Summer from May – October), they construct their product by combining the transport and the accommodation. They buy seats on planes and hotel rooms. They calculate the price of the trip (travel and stay included) by adding in their profit and the price of the brochure which is then put together so that they can offer the trip to agencies or directly through their own network/website. For a more complex stay, safari, a tour of Asia for example, there are specialised Tour Operators.
Due to the increase in independent booking via online availability with sites such as Last minute.com, Expedia and Travelocity internet websites, a number of travel agencies have now merged with tour operators to offer a full service to their customers.
Customers can buy a range of products from the travel agent / tour operator that include holidays and flights, travel insurance, car hire, coach and rail travel, currency exchange and sometimes even theatre tickets.