Updated January 2023Are you a tour operator trying to find which option is best for you? Or alternatively, are you a tourism professional trying to set up your distribution system? Trying to make your mark and stand out in a highly competitive industry? Let’s start at the beginning to help you understand the types of travel agents available to partner with. 

The role of a tour operator is to brainstorm ideas and conduct research to design holiday packages for travelers. In essence, they curate and compile various travel elements into a package that people will find appealing — creating a tailored and individual experience based on the interests and needs of various travelers. Holiday packages usually combine accommodation, cuisine, sightseeing, and transport. 

Inbound vs. outbound travel

what are the types of tour operator agents

An inbound tourist is someone who visits a country but is not a resident of it. In outbound tourism, residents of a country visit another country. Does this sound like two sides of the same coin? That’s because it is.

Let’s look at an example:

Kevin, an Australian citizen, is traveling to Argentina for a holiday.

Kevin is an inbound tourist to Argentina. In contrast, Kevin is an outbound tourist from Australia. 

Depending on where Kevin chooses to organize his holiday packages will depend on if he makes use of inbound tourism or outbound tourism.

An inbound tour operator will sell to people soon to be arriving in their countries, whereas an outbound tour operator will sell to people before they arrive at their destination.

Inbound tour operator agents

An inbound tour operator, also known as a destination management company, is a locally-based business or individual that provides holiday planning. This includes itinerary planning and arrangement of payment for their overseas clients. 

Inbound tour operators deal with both individuals and groups of international travelers. They make arrangements that are specifically catered to international guests, ensuring their clients have a comfortable and enjoyable stay. 

An inbound operator can work with the convenience of being able to operate at the same location in which they are organizing the holiday packages. Compared to outbound tour operators, an inbound operator would better understand the local area and its culture. This is especially true when receiving any inquiries or questions about tour information from a potential client. Additionally, an inbound tour operator is usually encouraged to develop strategic partnerships with other local companies and tour and activity operators. Building these relationships is a lot easier due to geographical location. 

Inbound tour operators are locally based

2 main types of tour operator agents

The purpose of inbound tour operators is to promote the entire destination to potential visitors from their local viewpoint. The operational advantage of being locally based is having easy access to work with other companies to promote the location as a whole to interested overseas travelers. Additionally, inbound tour operators can offer a more personalized service to their customers by having direct contact with them in their chosen destinations.

Inbound tour operators often work with other travel agents and distribution partners

Tour packages are often created and promoted by inbound tour operators in partnership with other travel agents and travel distribution channels. Inbound tour operators work under the assumption that travelers are often motivated by package deals and promotions, and take advantage of this when marketing their destination. This means it’s beneficial for inbound tour operators to create packages that include local tourism businesses such as hotels, transportation, and tours and activities. Following that, these same packages are promoted to segments of the target market that are most likely to visit the region in the near future.

Choose an inbound tour operator if:

Working with an inbound tour operator is a good idea if you want to increase your visibility in a chosen destination. This will be increasingly beneficial if your target market shows interest in package deals. 

Outbound tour operator agents

Outbound tour operator

A typical outbound tour operator works with international tourists. In contrast to inbound tour operators, outbound tour operators take travelers overseas from their home country. They offer a variety of tour packages that enable tourists across borders to travel abroad easily.

Outbound tour operators contribute significantly to the destination country’s economic growth. The majority of outbound tour operators choose to focus on a specific destination. This may be a destination that is currently popular or a destination in which they have special expertise and distribution partners. 

Most outbound tour operators cater to international travelers. 

Outbound tour operators offer travelers the convenience of visiting another country of their choice through tour packages. When travelers book a tour with an outbound tour operator, they can get everything they need under one roof — simplifying the travel experience. 

A particular region of the world is often their specialty

Outbound tour operators have the benefit of being experts in the destinations they serve. European destinations are a very popular choice with outbound tour operators; however other destinations, such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East, are growing in popularity. A successful outbound tour operator will often be very tuned-in to trends, one step ahead of the crowds, so they know which destinations to specialize in next. 

Choose an outbound tour operator if:

If your business strategy includes targeting international travelers, partnering with an outbound tour operator is likely to be a good fit. Additionally, an outbound tour operator will be a good fit if you understand overseas offerings and have the ability to promote them to domestic customers.

Advantages and Disadvantages

inbound tour operator definition

Just like running any form of travel company, there will always be some advantages and disadvantages. before working with either an inbound or outbound tour operator, here are a few pros and cons you should consider.

Inbound tour operators

As an inbound tour operator, you’ll have the advantage of convenience. This is due to being able to operate in the same location or home country as the tours you offer. This is extremely beneficial when receiving any inquiries or questions about the tours as you’d have a greater understanding of the local area and its culture compared to outbound tour operators. Furthermore, as an inbound tour operator, developing strategic partnerships and forming great relationships with other local companies and tour and activity operators will be a lot easier and is usually encouraged.

Another major advantage an inbound tour operator has is that most of the interactions with their customers will be direct. Meaning, it will allow them to offer a more personalized experience based on their customer’s needs.

Outbound tour operators

Just like the inbound operators, outbound tour operators deal with customers from their own countries. This makes designing and creating tour packages a whole lot simpler as they can customize the tours based on the customer’s interests. However, a disadvantage outbound tour operators have is not being based on the travel destination itself. This could create problems and can be more difficult to resolve any issues that may arise.

Fortunately, outbound tour operators have the flexibility to update their products and packages based on the latest travel trends and demands. As we all know, the travel industry is highly competitive and constantly evolving. Offering outbound tours gives you the freedom to adapt to changes in the travel and tourism market swiftly.

Which one should you choose?

The key difference between inbound and outbound tour operators comes down to whether they provide tours in their home country or abroad. You should consider both types of tour operator agents when developing your distribution strategy. Partnering with these two agents will maximize your reach to both international and domestic travelers.

Now, it’s time to think about ways to make your distribution and marketing channels more effective. You can identify your key partners via your research or by connecting with a tour wholesaler. By establishing partnerships with a large tour operator network, you can advance your business — both inbound and outbound. Read our previous blog if you are looking for tips and tricks for partnering with travel agencies or download our online distribution ebook today.


In general, both types of tour operator agents play an important role in the overall success of your distribution strategy. By partnering with both of these agents, you’ll be able to maximize your reach to both international and domestic travelers.

When bookings start to come through, you’d want to ensure that you’re providing your customers with a simple booking journey. By utilizing an online booking software, you’re not only simplifying the customer’s booking journey, you’re streamlining your processes as well. This is due to advanced features that automate your processes that allow your customers to make a booking on the spot. These features include a real-time availability viewer, that allows your customers to book based on your exact availabilities. Payment gateway integrations that provide your customers with the convenience of secure online payments. And Automatic communication, which sends your customers confirmation and updates regarding their bookings.

To top this all off, you can easily manage your partnership with both outbound and inbound tour operators via an online tour operator marketplace like Rezdy Channel Manager. Rezdy’s marketplace broadens your reach to over 25,000 active resellers in the industry.

Using Rezdy Channel Manager is as simple as:

  • Naming your price
  • Setting your rates
  • Letting resellers sell and promote your products

On top of that, you don’t have to worry about collecting payments and paying commissions as Rezdy automatically organizes payments for both parties. This reduces the need to chase your agents for payments.

Ready to capture more inbound and outbound bookings with Rezdy? Start a FREE 21-day trial or book a free demo today.

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