With the immense growth of online travel websites, many wonder when planning a vacation “Why use a tour operator?” A tour operator is a company (or individual) who pre-arranges travel packages that usually combine travel with tour components. For example, a tour operator may combine hotel accommodations, sightseeing, meals and transportation all for one packaged price. While there are wonderful websites to aid in travel planning, there are also many benefits to using a good tour operator that often go overlooked:
Knowledge – Perhaps one of the most widely used reasons for using a tour operator is their intimate knowledge of the places you want to see or activities you want to experience. Some companies can help get you immersed in a region’s rich culture, or highlight the little-known history of an area. Even in tourist friendly cities, such as San Diego and Las Vegas, tour operators can make your trip extraordinary by finding hidden local restaurants, entertainment, and reputable activities. With adventure travel, using a tour operator to help determine which extreme activity companies are safe and reliable where you are traveling is also a very important consideration.
Cost – Some tour operators have deals with local travel service providers where they get a discounted rate by bringing businesses regular clients. This can mean booking with a tour operator can cost you as much or less than booking on your own, without you having to spend hours planning the trip. They also help you avoid scam websites (especially common for sites claiming to sell skydiving, hot air ballooning, and gliders) that will take your money online without any connection or affiliation to the services you thought you had purchased.
Value – Tour operators can bring immense value to your vacation. In addition to your travel arrangements, many offer extras you just can’t find on your own. Some extras may include:
- Transportation – Don’t worry about getting lost in a new city or country.
- Photos – Focus on having some amazing experiences without sacraficing a memento.
- Group Guide – Get answers to your last-minute questions, find whatever local stores and entertainment you desire, and get in-person help when travel plans change.
- Exclusive Activities – They can provide access to activities that oftentimes you cannot get on your own.
Trust – Tour operators often rely on the same local vendors each week to provide their various activities, meals, accommodations, and other travel services. As a result, the travel service providers tend to be safe, reliable, and trustworthy compared to other companies you may find online. You also are likely to have any issues resolved quickly when using a tour operator, as they want to keep you and the tour operator happy to ensure continued business.
Hassle-Free – Tour operators may take care of logistics so your vacation becomes worry-free. Depending on the travel company, they can arrange everything from hotel to meals to activities, so all you need to do is show up and have a great time! This can be especially important for working individuals, who may want to pack in a lot of wonderful experiences into limited vacation time without having to spend hours or days developing the trip on their own.
As with any industry, there are numerous examples of good and bad tour operators. Some go above and beyond to give exceptional holiday experiences, while others simply resell a service as is with a heavy mark-up at the expense of trusting individuals.