So you want to be a tour operator? Here’s what you need to know.
Do you know a lot about Italy? Or cruising? Or perhaps you are an expert in African safaris? If any of these sound like you, consider a job as a tour operator, which is someone who specializes in putting together destination packages. According to the United States Tour Operators Association, a tour is a trip taken by a group of people who travel together and follow a pre-planned itinerary. Most tours include accommodations, a number of meals, sightseeing, land transportation and/or other transportation, plus the services of a professional tour manager or escort who accompanies the group.
Tour operators purchase the individual components of these travel packages in bulk and then resell them for a profit. Tour operators definitely have an interest in travel and know their destinations. They are also fluent in that particular foreign language. Because you’re working with clients to arrange their vacation tour, you need great interpersonal and communication skills as well as strong customer service skills and computer abilities. Since you will be handling a great deal of clients and arrangements all at once, you should be good at multi-tasking and organizing.
A tour operator should also know the trends of the areas they are working on. For example, you should know if a particular recreation is no longer available and if a particular area is no longer safe to tour.
You will also be working with vendors, such as coach operators, airlines, hoteliers and resort reps, working with contracts and costs, confirming the details of the trip, such as customer names with airlines/hotels, bookings, invoices and ticket reservations. You’ll also be working with smaller touring companies as well.
You can become a tour operator if you have a degree in leisure, travel, tourism, management, marketing, IT, business, languages or hotel and catering management. You can also go through on-the-job-training with a hotel, tourism board or tour operating companies.
If you’re starting your own tour operating company, it can be anything that you have a passion for or an interest in. You can make it as narrow as you want. For example, you can become a tour operator for skiing tours in Colorado or in Switzerland. You can also become a golf tour operator for golfing in Florida or throughout Canada.
It’s up to you how you want to pursue your career. You can work with another company and learn what they specialize in or you can create a business all your own. You can become a tour operator in the United States or travel for a job abroad.
Salary is often based on experience, but seems to average around $45,000. Some companies offer commissions and generous benefits, as well as overseas travel.
According to the United States Tour Operators Association, the amount of revenue contributed to the U.S. tour operator industry in 2014 is $13.5 billion.