Updated August 2022 – Every tour operation business specializes in a niche area of the tourism industry; offering unique tourism products for tourists who want to experience a destination rather than simply see it.

Whether your business offers sightseeing tours of big cities in the USA for group travelers or personalized independent tours of Africa’s national parks, ensuring that you’re able to utilize your available distribution channels effectively is key to maximizing your booking levels.

2 main types of tour operator agents

In order to do so, you’ll need to create a distribution strategy. This can be done by partnering with the right agents that suit your business.

In today’s article, we’ll go through the 2 different types of tour operator agents – outbound and inbound tour operators.

What are tour operator agents?

Many people may assume that travel agencies and tour operators agents are the same, however, this isn’t the case.

A tour operator agent is a person or a tour company that thinks of ideas and performs research to create holiday packages for travelers. Their main function is to curate and collate various travel components to create an appealing package for people to enjoy. Taking into account the special interests of different travelers.

This includes creating the itineraries, arranging the different tours and activities, contracting the services needed such as transportation or hotel bookings, organizing guides and tour leaders, arranging travel insurance, etc.

what are the types of tour operator agents

For example, a tour operator agent may create family-friendly holiday packages that provide conveniences such as transportation, accommodation, and kid-friendly activities. These types of packages can be extremely appealing for young families like Generation X, that seek easy and all-inclusive tours like these.

Once the final package has been made, they then distribute the products to the market for people to book. This is where travel agents come into play. Tour operators can utilize travel agencies as resellers or middlemen to promote their travel services to their customers.

3 main differences between inbound and outbound tour operators?

Although both outbound and inbound tour operators are very similar, the main difference between the two types of tour operator agents depends on whether they offer tours domestically or in international destinations.

By tapping into both domestic and international, both outbound and inbound tour operators are able to cater to both the mass market – international and domestic markets.

Outbound Tour Operators

Outbound tour operator
1. Outbound tour operators typically work with international travelers. They create tour packages and tours designed to allow travelers from one country to conveniently visit another country of their choice. For travelers, booking a tour through an outbound tour operator allows them to get everything they need in one convenient location.

2. They often specialize in a particular region of the world. The most popular area for outbound tour operators to create packages for is Europe, but other destinations like Southeast Asia, South America, and the Middle East are quickly rising in popularity with international travelers. Outbound tour operators usually are ahead of the trends and know what tour operators can expect next.

3. Tour and activity operators should partner with outbound tour operators in order to attract travelers from up-and-coming international market segments. By networking with outbound tour operators and making them aware of tour products, tour and activity operators can have their tours and activities included in upcoming packages.

Inbound Tour Operators

1. Inbound tour operators are locally-based, and they work to promote the destination as a whole to interested travelers. Sometimes, inbound tour operators are referred to as destination management companies. They often are comprised of business owners and industry leaders from a particular destination, and these entities work together to promote the region as a whole to interested travelers.

2. Inbound tour operators often work with other travel agents and distribution partners to create and promote packages. When it comes to marketing their destination, inbound tour operators recognize that travelers are often motivated by package deals and promotions. They frequently create packages involving local tourism businesses, including hotels, transportation providers, and tour operators. Then, these same packages are promoted to the target market segments that are most likely to visit the region in the coming months.

3. Tour and activity operators should partner with their local inbound tour operators to increase their visibility within their destination. These partnerships provide valuable opportunities that allow tour and activity operators to boost their bookings while also networking within their local travel industry.

Advantages and Disadvantages

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.


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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To find out more information about how to build agent partnerships and develop an effective distribution strategy for your tour and activity company, download the Rezdy online distribution ebook today.

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