Stressed-out people who just want to relax and have fun on vacation often defer all planning and stress to tour operators. These specialists keep up to date with various transportation, hotel and travel insurance deals. However, while this career offers some perks, low earnings and a declining industry might discourage all but the most passionate tour operators.
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Tour operators, also known as travel agents, are self-employed specialists who help travellers and vacationers find the best deals on transportation, lodging and attractions when travelling to a particular location. Some tour operators refer interested clients to travel agencies, which they then earn a commission on. Booking and selling tour operators actually book the trip for clients and help clients choose from a variety of tours. Some tour operators also refer tour operators to travel insurance companies in the case of natural disasters or political strife. Tour operators must also inform clients about the risks associated with travelling to a particular area. Many tour operators specialise on specific types of clients. For instance, some tour operators only help those who are ages 18 to 25 and in college, while other tour operators specialise in expensive luxury tours. Tour operators are represented by the U.S. Tour Operators Association.
Some tour operators work in their own offices, while other tour operators operate directly out of their homes. They usually divide their time between calling and meeting clients face-to-face and conducting research into travel packages. They must also complete a lot of paperwork including updating reservations and travel documents. Tour operators must develop good relationships with hotels and airlines in order to keep up to date on the latest deals.
Some vocational schools offer tour operator training programs. Some colleges and universities also offer travel and tourism degrees that can be applied to a tour operator position. Since many consumers are highly informed because of the Internet, many expect tour operators to be experts in their fields. Tour operators must be well-organised, accurate and detail oriented. They must have good interpersonal skills, since most clients want their tour operators to take much of the stress of travel off them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 105,300 tour operators held jobs in 2008. The need for tour operators was expected to decline 1 per cent between 2008 and 2018 due to consumers relying more on Internet services to book travel arrangements. Tour operators are also likely to experience further shortages in demand during economic downturns and international crisis.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that tour operators earned £19,870 in 2008. The lowest 10 per cent earned less than £12,200 and the highest 10 per cent earned more than £31,109. Since many tour operators earn commission, some income can be unstable. Tour operators can often travel for reduced rates and many tour operators can take familiarisation trips for free to learn about vacation sites.
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