What Does a Specialist Tour Operator Do?

Laura M. Sands

A specialist tour operator plans unique travel adventures for niche clientele. More specifically, these individuals organize trips for people with shared hobbies or interests, such as cycling or hiking, who would like to engage in such activities during recreational travel. This type of tour operator may work with a company that specializes in organizing such excursions or may work as an independent travel coordinator.

People on a safari, a type of specialist tour.
People on a safari, a type of specialist tour.

Most specialist tour operators organize travel plans from beginning to end. This includes organizing air and ground transportation, lodging and special activities. In some cases, a specialized tour operator may work with other professional tour guides in order to accomplish certain travel activities. For example, he or she may be the key organizer for a group’s safari adventure, but may also collaborate with a wildlife guide or tracker more experienced in the fine details of leading a group on a safari tour.

A specialist tour operator may offer clients a whitewater rafting trip.
A specialist tour operator may offer clients a whitewater rafting trip.

While this term often applies to an individual performing the duties of a specialist tour operator, it also applies to entire companies that specialize in such services. Travelers often seek an agency specializing in unique travel adventures instead of a more common travel agency. It is common for such an agency to only hire tour operators experienced in creating specialist tours. Other highly desired skills include a strong eye for detail, excellent communication, the ability to work with strict deadlines and knowledge of the tourism industry, in general.

Eco-minded safari companies offer treks and other ways to spot big game in Africa.
Eco-minded safari companies offer treks and other ways to spot big game in Africa.

In addition to prior experience working in a tourism career, it is not unusual to find that a specialist tour operator has also participated in one or more specialized tours as a traveler. Many have chosen specialized tourism jobs precisely due to the joy of engaging in adventure travel, such as safari expeditions, foreign cycling tours or hunting excursions. This kind of firsthand experience is often valued by specialized tour agencies as the helpful knowledge and experience gained during such vacations can be passed on to clients.

A specialist tour operator may focus on popular attractions, such as the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt.
A specialist tour operator may focus on popular attractions, such as the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt.

Beyond making travel arrangements, specific specialist tour operator duties may vary according to the travel activities each is experienced in. Operators work to tailor a client’s vacation toward an expressed interest that can be shared with fellow travelers or that can be enjoyed amongst family members. Some operators only organize travel for foreign or exotic destinations offered within certain time frames, but many also work to organize local excursions for weekend getaways or various short-term activities, such as skiing or fly fishing.

Some tour operators specialize in luxury travel, including round-the-world itineraries.
Some tour operators specialize in luxury travel, including round-the-world itineraries.

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Discussion Comments

gravois

My wife an I took a tour of Italy that was focused on some of the most famous Catholic sites in the country. Of course we went to the Vatican, but we also traveled into the countryside to see historical churches and other religious sites, some of which were hundreds of years old. We were lead by a tour guide who was able to provide a lot of historical information and interesting anecdotes. Both my wife and I agree that it was one of the best vacations we have ever taken.

tigers88

I am very interested in eco tourism. How would I find a job in this industry? I have looked around online and even contacted a few agencies but have not had any luck. Is there a resource for finding work in this field?

Ivan83

I used to work as an outdoor tour guide in Alaska. I would lead small groups on hiking, rafting and camping expeditions deep into the Alaska wilderness.

It was one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had. I have always loved the outdoors and Alaska offers some of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in the world.

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