Tour operator

A tour operator is a travel company that devises a trip, books its components, markets it, and sells to travelers or travel agents. Typically, tour packages include transportation, accommodation, airport transfers, activities, tours, and so on.

There are several main categories of tour operators: 

  • inbound tour operators,
  • outbound tour operators,
  • domestic tour operators, and
  • ground tour operators.

Sometimes, tour operators own some of the package components (e.g., run an airline or hotel). But in most cases, they source inventory from GDSs, accommodation providers, airlines, bed banks, DMCs, and other travel product suppliers.

Often, the tour operator functions as a wholesaler, buying tickets, hotel rooms, and other travel inventory in bulk at discounted rates, combining them, and selling those packages directly to travelers or indirectly (via resellers).