These tour operators formulate tour package individually or in collaboration with foreign tour operators. The packages may be marketed directly or by means of the intermediaries. In fact, inbound tour operators are the ‘image’ builders of a country as they convert all touristic resources of a nation into a saleable commodity.
They also contribute valuable foreign exchange earnings to the economy of host country. Recognizing the vital role played by inbound tour operators in the healthy growth and promotion of tourism, every nation has extended several financial and non-financial incentives to these operators.
2. Outbound Tour Operator:
These categories of operators are specialized in promoting and designing multi-national tours especially foreign countries. The outbound tour operator sells a package tour to an individual or a group of people of his own country to another country or a number of countries for a specific pre-decided period.
The outbound tour operator arranges travel documents, transportation to a central point where the tour starts and contracts with inbound tour operators/ground operators to provide accommodation, transportation, local sightseeing and other services as needed throughout the tour.
Generally, these operators work in liaison with the inbound tour operators/ground operators and offer services involving meeting inbound tour group at the airport, transferring the tour group from the airport to the arranged place of accommodation in town hotel, arranging/organizing local sightseeing that may be a single day or multi days tour of the home state, region or area. These may be in the form of business or leisure oriented tours.
3. Domestic Tour Operator:
Today, the domestic market has witnessed attractive growth rates as large players in the travel industry are aggressively entering and promoting this market. Leading tour operators usually focus on the international market where margins are higher but now, in addition, they are floating new packages to create a niche in this segment to tap the vast potential in the domestic market.
Even leading hotel chains are also receiving healthier response in this context. In the UK, USA, Japan, India, China and Hong Kong many tour operators are specialized in domestic holiday packages.
Generally, domestic tour operators operate within the boundary of home country and cater the diverse needs of individual and group travellers. They promote tour packages both through their own outlets and other retail travel agents. In fact, they are contributing to the cause of national integration.
4. Ground Operator:
Ground operator is also referred to as, ‘reception operator’, ‘destination management companies’ and ‘handling agencies’ e.g. ground operators in the United States— ‘reception operator, ‘handling agencies’ in India and destination management companies in UK.
Ground operators are normally expected to provide ‘land arrangements’ at a particular destination. Thus, a ground operator who provides the services required by large tour companies where they do not have a local branch/office or are not dealing at the source with the principal suppliers such as hoteliers, transport operators, car rentals, entertainment organizations and so forth.
The reception operator secures, coordinates, supervises and handles accounts/payments of all services related to the tour in his region/area. His services are invaluable for an efficient and successful operation of inclusive group as well as foreign independent tours.
The travel industry is very young compared to other industries, globally. It did not really gain momentum until 1945. However, it has changed dramatically in just the past four decades and there have been many drastic changes in the making of these fastest growing industry-deregulations of airlines in 1978, introduction of AMTRAK in 1974, information technology, globalization, changing public attitudes and so forth.
Many large scale travel agencies and tour operators have changed their product lines through merger, acquisition and franchise. In today’s volatile business environment, not only is the competition among travel agencies/tour operators intense but tourists have wide options of dealing directly with tourism product suppliers.
Tourists can now obtain his/her airline ticket, hotel booking, car rental and other services through computerized reservation system. Thereby, the success of travel agencies/tour operators is mostly determined by their ability to design package tours and operation’s service quality concept.
According to Sasser, Olsen and Wychoff, in order to design quality tour package, travel agencies/ tour operators must define the ‘service concept’ in terms of tangible features, range of services, and intangible features.
Thus, a tour operator must consider service concept to compete others and to match the demands of the travellers. He should arrange, plan and manage the travel services/ingredients – travel information, travel tickets, travel documents, itinerary, accommodation, transportation, car rental, cruise ship, travel insurance, currency, and other ground services in an efficient, extensive and profitable manner in order to win over the targeted market segment.
However, in the operational aspect, service delivery process is very complex and complicated, which requires strategic management approach in maintaining the sequence of these activities.
It shows how successfully a tour company performs its service activities to create a travel, and market it. Further, it creates a profound impact in ensuring satisfied travelers /clients and the image building of the organization.