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Travel Toolbox: Choosing a Tour Operator

There is no more important decision you make as a travel planner than deciding what providers to trust with your group’s time and money. If you use tour operators for your travel, selecting the right organization can make or break your trip.

Tour operators offer invaluable services to the group travel industry. Their knowledge and expertise enables them to help you find destinations and itineraries that will thrill your travelers, and their networks of professional employees and partners can handle even the most complicated of travel logistics, taking most of the hassle of travel planning off your shoulders. And because they enjoy great economies of scale, tour operators can often offer you trips at prices you wouldn’t be able to get for yourself.

But not all tour operators are created equal. There are hundreds of these companies across the country, each with different expertise, business practices and value propositions.

When it’s time to choose a tour operator to take care of your next group trip, keep these five key factors in mind.



Like any company, every tour operator has its own areas of expertise. Some large tour companies are generalists that offer a consistent product across many different destinations around the world. Others are boutique operations that have deep networks in one particular destination or region. There are pros and cons to both of these approaches. If your travelers are very enthusiastic about visiting a certain place, it may be worthwhile to choose a company with a deeper expertise there. Large companies, however, are likely to deliver a reliable experience no matter where you travel with them, even if they miss out on some of the finer details a specialist would provide.



Price will always be a consideration when shopping for travel, but it should never be the only factor that drives your decisions. There are many elements that affect the price of a tour, and if a tour operator advertises bargain-basement prices on a trip, there’s likely to be a reason. When you talk to tour operators about price, be sure to inquire about what those prices include. What level of hotels do they use, and how close are those hotels to the city center? How many meals are included, and what is the quality of the restaurants? Do the prices include admission tickets, taxes and tips? Sometimes the lowest price doesn’t equate to the best value, especially if your travelers have sophisticated taste.