Prior to the deregulation of airlines, a popular type of tour development by tour operators was ‘Charter Tour Package’ where they chartered entire airline seats at substantially reduced prices and assumed complete responsibility for the payments and sale of seats. However, a tour operator offers a wide variety of tour packages as required by the clients or retail travel agencies such as FITs, GITs, either escorted or unescorted.
Today, the travelers are becoming more and more sophisticated, experienced and are prepared to pay for tour operators’ services as they realize that in the long run the pre-planned and pre-arranged tours will not only save up to one-third of their time en route, but will also give them more value for their money.
As stated by Aryear Gregory (1985), “The tour operator is the architect/manufacturer who assembles the tour ingredients and creates travel, creates a market, creates lead and creates an annuity by having satisfied clients who return year after year”.
James M. Poynter (1993) defines, “tour operator is one who has the responsibility of putting the tour ingredients together, marketing it, making reservations, handling all financial and accounting aspects, and selecting as well as managing tour managers”.
A tour operator is a company which specializes in the planning and operation of pre-paid, pre-planned vacations and makes these available for tourists either directly or through the retail travel agency.
Practically, most tour operator select specific parts of the world as targeted markets in which they concentrate and offer their tours. The tour operator may be international or domestic or specializing in a continent, multinations/ regions etc.
However, a few tour operators serve both international and domestic markets besides offering both the types of destinations. Specialization helps in targeting markets and in reducing the range of potential competitors.