Tour operator companies package the various elements of a holiday and sell/ promote this ‘package’ to travel agents and consumers. They organise accommodation, transport, tour guides, activities, entertainment, flights and other elements.
Tour operators can specialise in certain types of travel and holiday offer e.g. group leisure tours; special interest and activity holidays such as heritage, golf, walking, sailing; or business tourism which includes organising conferences and other events.
There are ‘inbound’ and ‘outbound’ tour operators.
Outbound operators organise groups going out of Ireland, often working with inbound operators from other countries to organise the activities on the ground in the foreign country.
Inbound operators organise travellers coming into Ireland. There are three types:
• Ground Handlers/ Handling Agencies – make arrangements for the on-land parts of trips, providing support and assistance and managing all elements of the customer’s experience while in their destination.
• DMC – Destination Management Companies – organise meetings and incentive programmes (days out or trips that companies book for their staff to motivate them to work more effectively). Their objective is to design exciting, innovative and efficient programmes that will keep people’s interest.
• PCO – Professional Conference Organisers – companies with skills and expertise in the conference industry. Organise venues, delegate registration, accommodation, transfers, hospitality and networking events, pre and post visits and more.
Find out more about working as Tour operator
Tour operating is a very service-oriented business, so you’ll be interacting with suppliers and customers to understand and best deliver their exact needs on a daily basis.
If you work with an inbound tour operator, you’ll be involved in all stages of marketing and planning travel itineraries. You’ll devise and tailor programmes specific to your clients’ needs, incorporating appropriate elements of the Irish tourism product.
Aside from this type of ‘account management/ programme and itinerary development’ role, other positions within the sector include administration, reservations, IT, marketing and sales, on-site operations and supplier contracting and negotiations.
The Career Path:
This career path is an example, as they vary depending on the structure of the tour operator company.
You might start as an account assistant, where you help out the account managers on specific elements of their programmes and get an in-depth knowledge of Ireland and your specific area of business.
After a few months you could become an account executive. Even at this early stage you have a huge amount of responsibility. You can be involved with winning business for your company through the creativity and cost-effectiveness of your proposals and have the satisfaction of managing a successful group programme the whole way through from beginning to end.
At account manager level you will run larger and longer programmes. There will also be more complex days where you could have up to 10 different tours running at once and you have to make sure everyone is on the right tour and all go to schedule. Senior account managers take on more intense groups with higher demands and more unusual requests, which require more planning.
On the operations side of things the most senior position is the director of operations. The director, who will have been working in the industry for about ten years, will run the largest programmes within the company and have the groups with the highest demands. They also oversee and help all other members of staff with their individual groups.