What is a Tour Operator?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
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A tour operator is in charge of planning and leading tours for travelers who desire the guidance of an informed person to lead them to places of interest. She normally provides verbal descriptions of sites and landmarks as another person operates the vehicle transporting the tourists. This vehicle is commonly a bus, but tours may also be conducted from a plane, boat, train, mini-bus, car or on foot.

Sometimes a tour operator operates independently and offers expeditions serving specified interests, such as a particular industry, hobby or type of landscape. Examples of these specialized tours often include trips to garment districts, historic districts or animal sanctuaries. This type of tour operator is often an expert in these areas of interest and sought out by those with specific curiosities.

If the tour guide works for a large company, she may have a staff that helps her conduct the tours or assists in promotion and booking. She commonly trains and supervises this staff. In the event the company is small, she may be responsible for all daily operations.


As the leader of the expedition, the guide is regularly questioned during her presentation of the tour’s highlights. Since the questions asked are commonly diverse and unique, a tour operator usually travels to the sites on the expedition route prior to leading others there. She normally researches the local amenities and learns as much as possible about the destinations on the tour. This knowledge makes the excursion more rewarding and commonly increases the tour’s popularity and revenues. If she works for a large tour company, this training may be provided.

In addition to leading excursions, a tour guide regularly works with travel agencies, resorts or hotels in providing brochures, discount coupons and flyers to attract the attention of visitors. This promotion may be included in comprehensive packages sold either prior to the outing or during the trip itself. It is common for her to work closely with select tourist destination businesses to develop package deals that monetarily benefit several companies at once.

Besides dispensing information on points of interest, a tour operator is regularly called upon to assist tourists in a variety of capacities. She may help them with passports or immigration papers, assist with wheelchairs or other ambulatory aids or facilitate communications with local merchants. In the event of an emergency, the tour operator is normally relied upon to contact appropriate medical or support personnel.

Keeping accurate records is important for a tour operator. In the event of an emergency, she should have contact information for each person on the tour. If the tour requires travel to remote areas, she is commonly expected to be aware of any medical needs of her customers. Contact information is normally used for future promotions and to obtain feedback on customer satisfaction as well.

No formal education is required for this position. An engaging personality and good communication skills are pluses, as is a passion for enlightening people on subjects in which they have expressed interest. A tour operator commonly works as an assistant prior to being promoted to operator status.


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Post 1

Anyone who loves travel and enjoys discussing historical facts would enjoy this profession. These jobs are especially in demand for good workers in high tourist areas, which are exciting places to live and work.

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