Tour Operations and Travel Agencies

3.1 Introduction

In the previous units, you were acquainted with the role of tour operator in tourism industry. A tour operator packages together a series of travel services which include transportation, airport transfers, accommodation, excursions and sightseeing, guide services, etc. The product that comes out after assembling all these services together is known as a package tour. Generally, the tour operators buy these services in bulk from the principal suppliers to make holiday or special interest packages. The complete package of arrangements and services is then sold at an exclusive package price to tourists through retail agents in the tourist-generating markets. The prices of these package tours are much lower than what an individual buyer would obtain if one goes for separate bookings with different suppliers of travel trade. At the same time, it must be noted that a tour operator not only sells a package tour but also ensures the smooth operation of the tour. The management issues related with tour operations include:

  1. Tasks to be performed for setting up a tour operator company,

 

  1. Market research and product (tour package)

formulation,

 

  • Selling the tour package, and

 

  1. Organising, monitoring and controlling the organisation’s activities as well as tour operations.

Keeping in view the functions of a tour operator, in this Unit, we attempt to familiarise you with the managerial tasks involved therein. The Unit takes into account the requirements of setting up a tour operation company. It also deals with the planning, organising and operational aspects necessary for tour operations. It further deals with certain minute details related to efficiency levels in the company which are useful for training your employees as well as for those who intend taking up such jobs. This Unit also focuses upon the use of latest technology to enhance the efficiency of tour operations.

3.2 Setting up a Tour Operation Company

Tour operation is a risky business because a tour operator buys airlines’ seats, hotel rooms, etc. much in advance from the principal suppliers and if he or she fails to sell them heavy losses are involved in it. Hence, before setting up a tour operation company, one must be prepared financially and mentally to bear these risks. Similarly, a tour operator must be absolutely clear regarding the type of business to be handled. For example, would the company deal only with inbound tours, outbound tours, domestic tours, exclusive markets like conferences, conventions, trade shows, business, incentive. Travel or all of them, or a combination of any two or more of them. This should be decided at the planning stage itself while preparing the project report. Furthermore all tour companies, whether large or small, must fulfil certain minimum requirements like:

  • a proper financial base,

 

  • adequate and qualified staff,

 

  • government approvals, and

 

  • authority to sell on behalf of industry principals in return for commissions.

You have already learnt about financial feasibility studies and the sources of funding for establishing a tourism enterprise. In this Unit an attempt is made to co-relate them with the needs of a tour operation company. A good premise at a suitable location is the vital requirement for starting a new tour operations venture. Similar is the case in relation to support services like office requirements and the travel language and terminology.

A tour operator has to establish linkages with the principal suppliers like airlines, hotels, tourist transport operators, guides and escorts, etc. for the purpose of designing the package. For this you need information from various channels. For marketing purposes, linkages have to be established with travel agents, tourism departments, etc. In fact, the owner/manager of a tour operator company must attain all knowledge about the products to be packaged and market conditions. This calls for a proper understanding of:

  • a tourism markets (segments and competition),
  • tourism trends,
  • tourist profiles,
  • tourism forecasts and seasons,
  • promotional strategies,
  • trade linkages,
  • travel regulations, and
  • tourism products, etc.

Besides a tour operator, in India, after one year of operations, must seek recognition from department of Tourism, Government of India. There would be similar agencies for seeking recognition in other countries as each country has some regulations.

3.3 Management of In-house Operation

In present times of tough competition and extensive Use of information technology, between the managerial functions of a tour operator and a travel agent has narrowed down. Gone are the days when a tour operator used to design and package tours for bulk state and travel  agents were, used as intermediaries to reach the tourists both in groups and as individuals. In other words, tour operators were producers/ wholesalers and travel agents were retailers. But as market forces and (conditions have changed, the technological advances have improved the mobility and purchasing power of a large number of people. They have directly started searching the websites for recreation activities which form the backbone of the leisure and holiday tourism. The trend of directly going to the principle suppliers is on the increase.

Most of the tour operators of yesteryears are finding it difficult to sustain their  operations without reaching the end users directly. As a result, tour operators’ business operations are undergoing change though the level may vary from country to country to company.

Once market conditions and tastes have been determined it becomes important for you to organise your in-house operations. In technical terms these in-house operations vary from company to company depending upon the size and volume of business of the company. For example, in a large tour operation company in-house operations will be organised in a classified manner (See Figure IF).

If we look at the above shown organisational structure it is quite clear that in-house operations are spread over the tourists coming into the country, tourists going abroad as well to domestic tourists. These operations are backed up with product designing (tour packages), sales and finance etc. In a small company these departments may be clubbed together into two or three managerial positions.

When we talk about managing in-house operations for inbound tourists we may include several activities which form part of the overall operations like:

1) Acquiring complete product knowledge,

2) Managing linkages with service suppliers,

3) Itinerary preparation

4) Costing the package

5) Managing business correspondence

6) Controlling vouchers

7) Briefing and counselling,

8) Planning and scheduling pick-ups and transfers,

9) Feedback assessments/analysis, and

10)Human Resource Planning and Development.

3.3.1 Acquiring Complete Product Knowledge

In the present times of specialisation, the tour operators are packaging different kinds of tours and accordingly they need to acquire product knowledge for packaging these tours. We have mentioned earlier that there are inbound tour operators as well as outbound and domestic tour operators. Within these categories, you can further divide the tour operators in two categories:

1) Mass Market Operators are those who offer routine packages which include travel, accommodation, and some other related services. These operators sell packages of well established destinations to all taking the market as a whole.

2) Specialist Tour Operators designs their packages keeping in view the specific needs of different market segments of the customers. For example, exclusive package tours are created for adventure tourists by some: others package wildlife tour packages or some design packages for a particular age group. For the purpose of segmenting the markets, some tour operators go for geographical segmentation and operate in a specific region only. For example, certain local tour operators may organise tours in their catchment areas only or some may identify and confine to one or two countries only for business. Among this category, there are also tour operators who specialise in using specific types of accommodation, transport and entertainment. In fact, there is no end to imagination and creativity in designing special tours after analysing the demand trends and attitudes. For example, of late, some tour operators have started preparing packages for diplomats and their families on weekends from Delhi to nearby places. Recently during Holi, a large number of foreigners and their family members were taken to palaces of Alwar to celebrate the festival the way maharajas used to cerebrate it in old days.

Some tour operators specially design and package tours on the requests of the clients. A typical example in this regard could be the following:

A group of 10 sociologists from France intends to visit India. They want to have a feel of prominent tribal societies and they are in the age group of 35-45. They place their requests to a travel agency in Paris and the travel agency passes on this request to you in India. The first task for you shall be to assess whether this company can handle such a group. Considering factors may include:

  1. company has to get in touch with a leading sociologist in India for identification of the sites worth visiting,

 

  1. What shall be the modes of transportation to these sites,

 

  • Where accommodation has to be provided,

 

  1. Identification of a tourist guide who specialises in tribal tourism,

 

  1. What type of entertainment should be provided to them in the evenings

 

  1. What type of meals should be served

 

  • Where to take them for shopping, etc.

In fact, it is only after assessing these aspects, you will be able to package the different components and accept the offer. You can also think of providing value addition in this package by offering each member of the group a good look on sociology as a souvenir or a complimentary visit to a museum where the records and studies about some of the tribes are kept or even shopping at a place where handicrafts prepared by these tribes could be seen in making process and could be purchased. To make all these arrangements you shall ask for sufficient time too. This cushion period may vary from 12-14 months. There are clubs and groups of travellers who seek presentations from tour operators or send a member to have a feel of the tour first. Thus, it should also be kept in mind that such requests ask for special efforts on the part of a tour operator to package the tour and you must remember that in the coming Future the number of such tours is going to increase.

For the construction of any type of holiday package, market research is an essential component and once a decision is taken regarding the type of business to be done, the tour operator must take an account of the services that are to be packaged. At the same time, the tour operator must have a first-hand experience of the quality of the services which the principal suppliers offer, and this means field visits. In tourism, these are known as Familiarisation (FAM) Tours. Generally, these tours are at the cost of the principal suppliers who themselves are looking for expansion avenues of their business. Let us take the following example in this regard.

A tour operator intends to package a tour from Delhi to Puri beach temples. We know that at least two airlines are operating their flights on this route and there are a number of hotels in Puri. You travel by a particular airline to assess its services. Further, you look for hotels in Puri and assess whether their facilities and services meet your requirements, location from the beach (generally people go to Puri for beach as well as pilgrim holidays), etc. The prices and commissions are also negotiated. The next thing you do is to deal with a local tourist transport operator for making sightseeing and excursion arrangements during the daytime and again prices and commissions are negotiated. You also find out the means of entertainment available in the evenings and decide which one among them shall go as part of packaged tour. However, if the same exercise is to be done for a special interest package you may include in your research identifying a guide who is familiar with the history, customs and rituals, etc. of the Puri temple; an art historian who can describe the architecture in its minutest details to the group; a restaurant which serves local cuisine and a hotel with ethnic décor.

In fact, as a tour operator you should constantly update the knowledge about the destination in order to improve and redesign the package (if necessary) every year. It must be remembered that the packages are generally designed and sold at least a year in advance as most of the tourists in the prominent tourist generating markets plan their holidays twelve to fourteen months in advance this is particularly true for the long haul destinations like India. This is more so necessary because of the competition in the market. This product knowledge has to be stored and regularly updated. For instance, when you sold a package tour, list of attractions and sightseeing constituted 10 points but when actually tourists arrive number has gone up to 13, these 3 new man-made attractions, being widely publicised are known to tourists, before they ask you, you yourself should incorporate them in their itinerary. This is possible only when you are updated about these market developments. This could very well be achieved through FAM tours.

Besides product knowledge, planning, organising, monitoring and controls should be an in-built exercise while packaging tours. While selling the tours, you may face such questions as to what are your alternate or contingency plans for meeting the failure of any service that is offered in the package. For example, if the flight is cancelled, etc. Hence, it is necessary that the pace of operations, contingency plans and controls are decided at the initial stage itself, though these may be for the internal exercise of your company employees.

3.3.2 Managing Linkages with Service Suppliers

Once you have acquired the product knowledge you need to develop contacts with principal suppliers of various services to package the product for sale. Domestic airlines market size has remained more or less stagnant since 1990s when nearly 10.8 million domestic passengers were carried by domestic airlines which now have marginally increased up to 12.8 million in 2001-02. This clearly indicates at the fact that market size has not increased whereas number of airlines and flights (number of passenger seats) have increased over these years. As a result, these airlines are trying to cut their share from the same cake size by offering lucrative incentives and discounts to their passengers. It is in these circumstances your role as a tour operator becomes more crucial when you negotiate with these airlines on behalf of your customers to get them the best price and maximum value for their money.

Therefore, as a tour operator, it is important for you to keep yourself updated about various promotional schemes being offered by these suppliers. Today internet can be considered as the best source of such information. Moreover, most of these suppliers organise fam tours on regular basis to familiarise new entrepreneurs managers of this trade. These suppliers also exhibit their products and services in travel and trade shows. Hence, if you want to be a successful and effective tour operator in the beginning, you shall visit such exhibitions and expositions and if your budget allows you shall also participate. Similar would be the situation in relation to hotels or tourist transport operators and the linkages of tour operators with other service suppliers have also been discussed at length in Unit 2. As a manager you should also train your staff in this regard.

3.3.3 Itinerary Preparation

Whether it is inbound tourism or it is outbound tourism itinerary preparation is the most crucial task. To be a successful tour operator you need to acquire complete product knowledge and accordingly develop linkages with service suppliers. Once you have achieved these tasks you will be able to plan your itinerary at a competitive cost. You must train your staff on all the important elements of itinerary preparation like preparing tour packages, costing tows, issuing tickets, scheduling and arranging pick-ups and transfers, booking hotels, arranging visits to events and monuments and other allied services to be performed for successful operations of your business. You are advised to divide your work into international and domestic desk. Though most of the field jobs would remain the same of the operational requirements would be different for international tourism. For example, developing and managing linkages with trade supplier you are not only required to participate In Fam tours frequently as well o you are needed to represent your product(s) at international travel trade shows, like, ITB, BATTE, etc., Technical points related to itinerary preparation have also been discussed previously as well as at the end of this Unit,

3.3.4 Costing A Tour Package

It is after thoughtful exercise of planning and controlling of resources that a packages tour is prepared end is ready for sale; but art what pries? Rice will always be a crucial factor In its success or failure,

Though as a general practice tour operators use marginal pricing techniques, I.e. either after studying the market trends add their margin and coat the package or after calculating their operational costs plus some profit for the economy decide on the price. Yet, you have the option of choosing either from mark up or buying power:

  1. I) Mark Up

If you aim to generate profit In order to keep you In business you are required to handle as many clients as possible and by making sure that you make sufficient profit on each group you handle, In order to ensure that you make profit you have to familiarise yourself with the total cost of the ingredients of the package, md then add a mark up to that total, It means mark up In the extra amount your company can keep on each sale. If you give a price which is too high, (because you have been too greedy with your mark up) you may loose the business to your competitor. If you do not charge enough to make a profit you may not service the market. Normally decision making in case of mark ups rests with senior people in the company. Therefore, you must equip yourself with decision making skills in the area

  1. ii) Buying Power

Buying power is used to increase the profit you make on each sale in order to reduce the price at which you buy the services from principal suppliers for the package. In other words, you ought to have the best bargain from your supplier. This has the effect of increasing your margin without increasing the price at which you sell the package to the clients. Though you are in a good position to negotiate yet you are required to give the supplier a good amount of business for more discounts.

Besides these two pricing techniques you must also familiarise yourself with other technical terms. Like Net rate, Gross rate, profit and margin which are related to costing and pricing of packages:

  1. a) Net Rate

Net rate is the price which a supplier charges you and on which you base your prices for your products and services. While calculating net rates you are free to add any amount of mark up to it before passing it to your client. The net rate is always kept absolutely confidential to yourself and the client must have no idea of the extent of the mark up. It is possible that your competitors may receive different net rates. From the same suppliers and will probably add different mark ups. This will differentiate the prices of your packages from that of your competitors.

  1. b) Gross Rate

Gross rate is the rate which a supplier quotes to you for his or her products/services. It normally includes an amount, expressed as a percentage of the gross rate, for you. This hidden part for yau is usually known as Commission. This commission constitutes a lion’s share of your earnings in tour operations. For example, if the Gross price is US$10, and the commission rate is 10%; your supplier wants to be paid US$9 and expects you to sell the service to the client for US$10. It is probable that the same service is available elsewhere for US$10 and that the client is aware of only this selling price. The percentage rate of the commission is not revealed to the client and your competitors probably receive a different commission rate even though their selling price is the same. This differentiation in commission rate is largely due to volume of business you generate for your principal suppliers. Higher the volume, higher would be the rate of commission. A part of this percentage is many a times passed on to customers to win their loyalty.

  1. c) Profit

Profit is what you hope to be left with at the end of the year after all your bills have been paid, including taxes. Profit is not the same as mark up. However, it should be noted that many travel companies call the amount they have made on a file “profit on this file and not mark up” on this file. This is technically incorrect but as it is a common practice because tour operators do not want to reveal the mark up on each file for their staff.

  1. d) Margin

Margin, however, is much the same as mark up but whereas mark up tends to be expressed as a percentage, margin tends to be an amount expressed in money.

Let us assume that a client chooses a vacation which will cost him US$1000 (Round figures have been used for convenience in this example)

Total amount received by retail client                        1000

Retail agent’s commission on this sale (10%)             100

Amount passed to wholesaler (10%)                           100

Air seat to destination (40%)                                         400

Amount of inbound operators invoice to

wholesalers (40%)                                                           400

You can see in this example that your invoice of $400 to the wholesaler had seen many other things added to it before the client finally gets his bill? All of these figures are kept confidential in the travel trade. Clients pre well aware that everyone is making money, but they are never permitted to know the exact details. But rather they are made to believe that every service provider is squeezed for every penny to get the best price for the customer.

Many a times you confront a situation where you feel that the selling price is too high for your client. What do you do in such a case? It is not always possible to cut the margin, or try to negotiate a lower price. You can try a number of other alternatives to convert this enquiry in to an actual purchase:

  • Reduce the number of nights
  • Reduce the included meal plan
  • Reduce the included sightseeing or activities
  • Use a cheaper hotel

All of these actions will reduce the gross cost to your client ( but will also reduce your profit). When you take an action to reduce the cost by reducing the quality, you must be sure to explain to the client how the tour has now become less expensive. If you do this tactfully, you may even persuade them to pay the higher price for a better product

3.3.5 Business Correspondence – A Managerial Art

All organisations depend on incoming, outgrowing and internal correspondence for a variety of reasons like whether it is confirmation of booking or handling of complaints, etc. The product is an arrangement made on paper and  you depend on the mail more than many other business. Correspondence can be made by:

  1. Letter
  2. Fax
  3. Telex
  4. Memo
  5. Email

The “mail” here includes the public post office system or a courier service be it national or international. There are many reasons why you correspond with others and these may include

  • Requesting information
  • Giving information
  • Sales promotion (mail shots)
  • Receiving documents
  • Despatching documents
  • Receiving payments
  • Despatching payments etc.

All incoming correspondence must be handled quickly and correctly so that the customers bookings are properly processed and all outgoing correspondence should create a professional image of both yourself and your company. As a manager, you ought to lay out the company rules in this regard and ensure that your staff is properly trained in this regard.

  1. i) Incoming Correspondence

One of the first tasks of your working day is to deal with all the correspondence. This may mean that you have to go through the mail received, you shall also depute someone to check the fax machine, collect printouts from the telex machine, and write down messages from the answer-phone as well as check the computers for e-mail or networked messages.

In order to do all this you need trained people who can be assigned the various jobs related to both incoming as well as outgoing mail. Most tour operators put the staff on a rotation basis whereby they take their turn on administration or counter duties.

Incoming correspondence can cover many subjects. It may include updates from suppliers on products available, invoices for services provided, changes in banking settlement plans, requests from customers, arrival of tickets, new stocks of brochures, advice of flight time changes, customer complaints, and much more to add to this list. It is important for you to prioritise incoming mail and to instruct the office staff to deal with all of them in the fixed order of priority.

Once you have a pile of mail in front of you, you should sort the mail according to urgency.

Remember, you should give first priority to existing client business as the most urgent. This is to ensue quality-in customer care. You must also remember, that messages which have arrived by answer-phone, telex, fax or e-mail are usually, but not always, more urgent than those which have come by post. So, you should put these in the most urgent priority list. Not only this, you should also look(for letters which deal with very urgent matters, such as, invoices, receipts, tickets or schedule changes.

After  these come requests which may lead to new business. Enquiries from prospective clients also need close attention. Your response to such correspondence will enable you to establish linkages with new market segments of travel industry. Then matters related with general office administration can be dealt with, for example, bank statements, bills for the office rent, etc. If you do not handle these promptly, you will have business but no premises. Next, there is likely to be quite a lot of information related to new products/services launched. You certainly need to study and keep them but they are less urgent. Finally comes, circulars and effort by other businesses to sell to you their products/ services. If you are on post duties your job is to read the mail quickly, establish the level of priority, and mark it promptly to a colleague, to a file. You have to design a system for your own company keeping in mind that:

  • Existing business comes first,
  • Potential business comes second,
  • Administration comes third, and
  • Product updates comes next.

Customer complaints are related to existing business and, therefore, should get first priority. If put them at the bottom of the pile loses can be irreparable. All incoming mail must be

distributed In the first half-hour of the working thy so that It can be dealt with promptly,

  1. ii) Outgoing Correspondence

Outgoing correspondence is an opportunity to transmit professional image of yourself and your company and therefore It must look smart as well as correct, Therefore, you me advised the following checklist for managing every ongoing correspondence:

  • The correct paper is used (letter head, etc.),
  • The letter is formatted correctly,
  • It has the correct date,
  • It is addressed to the right person,
  • All information is correct (double check with all files),
  • There are no grammatical, spelling, or typing errors,
  • All questions asked have been answered,
  • The letter is easily understood,
  • The letter is polite and business-like,
  • The letter has been signed by the appropriate person,
  • The envelope has been addressed correctly, the postage is fixed and sufficient,
  • The correspondence is despatched by the most appropriate means according to its urgency and a record is kept.

iii) Internal Correspondence

Internal correspondence consists of corresponding with other members of the staff and forms part of the daily routine in any company. This is normally done in an informal way. Hand written notes are normally quite acceptable when communicating with your colleagues. When you have to pass on an important information to your colleague you should check twice that it has been received and work has started on it. For example, you can always go for a quick verbal “Did you see my note about Mr. Ali’s flight cancellation?” It takes only a moment. If you are required to write a detailed report it should always be typed, even if it is only for internal use. You should use a typewriter, word processor or a computer to ensure that the finished item looks professional.

  1. iv) Despatching Correspondence

In tour operation business, during the office hours and at the end of each working day there would be a large quantity of mail to send. This will include electronic despatch as well as physical posting. If everything is left to the last minute the person who should send the mail will want to go home and the mail will remain undelivered till next working day which is not a professional way to handle the situation. The whole office staff should, therefore, be aware of what time the routing mail will leave from the office, and ideally this will be about an hour or half an hour before the close of business. At this time the administration person will collect the mail, and take it to the box or post office. This may take a little time so it will be that the persons last duty of the day. Faxes, telexes, etc. should not await the end of the day but should be answered at once throughout the working day.

3.3.6 Controlling Vouchers

Vouchers (sometimes called exchange orders) are documents which are issued by tour operators for making reservations, confirming reservations and guarantee payments to suppliers of products/services. In other words, instead of writing a lengthy booking letter, sending a deposit cheque or cash, then writing a confirmation letter and sending another cheque, or more cash, a voucher is prepared for the same. This, of course, saves time, effort and removes the risks of escorts and other staff carrying large amounts of cash. Since these vouchers are promissory notes, they are accountable documents and must be treated as good as tickets or cash. That is, you are advised to handle them carefully, secure and stock them in a controlled manner. Vouchers are broadly used far services like:

  • Hotel bookings,
  • Meal breaks on tours,
  • Entrance fees to attractions,
  • Transport
  • Guide
  • Toll for roads, bridges or mountain passes, and
  • Hire of equipment for sports and activities and many more.

Normally, the vouchers are printed in sets of four or more copies. One copy is for the office, one for the client which he/she presents to the services provider, one copy goes in advance to the service provider and one copy is filed in the client’s account. In short, a voucher is a promise to pay for a service someone promises to provide. Therefore, it must be accurate, brief and clear. If any one of the features is missing from the voucher issued by you, it will have a different impact on your relationship with suppliers. To achieve accuracy you can advise your staff to use computer aided reservation vouchers, which are less, exposed to fraud and recording of their number is not a cumbersome task for the staff.

In issuing vouchers all your staff has to do is to complete each box carefully and completely. If you he able to type the entries then you should use block capitals and indelible ink or ballpoint. Always check that all copies have come out clearly, especially if you are using carbon paper. Let us look at one example of a correctly completed voucher for a transfer, which you are asking your partner agency. You have already been told that a voucher is a document which outlines a promise to provide a service. In writing the following voucher in detail you are advising your partner exactly what you have done and you are giving enough information to allow them to do it properly. This order gives all the details both ordinary and special about the passengers. For instance, in is example one passenger uses wheel chair and they would be requiring an English speaking escort.

You must note here that very rarely do prices ever appear on these vouchers. This is because here is a difference between the net rate that you are paying and the gross rate that the client is f paying. You should keep these rates, and the extent of the difference, confidential. On the voucher, you must mention services to be provided. For example

  • Meet/greet arrival transfer 02 pax + Bags Ex BA 123
  • Arrival MAA 1500 28 Apr 2002
  • Private Air-conditioned car
  • Special secretarial assistance, double room, MAP

3.3.7 Briefings and Feedback

For the success of any tour operation business it is essential for you as a manager to brief all the personnel associated with the tour operations in relation to their functions. This is more particularly true in case of escorts, guides and drivers. In other words, all the staff members who come in direct contact with the client/ tourists must be given proper briefings on:

  1. i) how to handle clients’ inquiries
  2. ii) how to convert these enquiries in to desires

iii) how to convert these desires in to actual demand

  1. iv) how to convert this actual demand into action.

Once the package is purchased by the client what kind of services would go as value added services, for instance, tour escorts and guides are today seen as value added services. Other than this, other complimentary services are added to this, for example, training of drivers on driving skills, route locations, delivery of air tickets, itineraries, passports endorsed with visas, and pre tour briefings to the tourists, etc.

By now you must have gathered a fair idea of how important briefing and counselling can be in any successful operation of a tour.

3.3.8 Planning and Scheduling Pick ups and Transfers

This in-house function of tour operation business holds the importance because if logistical applications are not used in transport fleet management there may come situations when your tourists/group remain waiting at the airport for transport or for pick up assistant. This may further lead to confusion related to hotel transfer. Therefore, scheduling of pickups for at least six weeks in advance must be carried out in a planned manner so that available transport fleet can achieve optimum utilisation

As we know that most of the international flights come at late night, it is thus important to schedule deployment of both men and vehicle much in advance and proper briefing must also be done accordingly. Details of the pickup related functions are discussed at length in subsequent sections.

As far as planning transfers of guests are concerned you must ensure that desired type of hotel is booked and confirmation is procured. It is advised that a few days before the arrival of the group(s), reconfirmation must be done so that when a long journey guest arrives, should not face any inconvenience. As a normal routine you have tie-ups with only a few of the hotels who have agreed to give you desired percentage of commission on each booking(s), i.e., the main motivation you work for. It is your responsibility that when your staff is going for pickups or where transfers are also involved, he/she must also be given hotel vouchers prepared by your staff for the tourist(s).

It is very important to note that if these functions are planned carefully and in advance nothing can stop you from getting an image as one who cares for the customers.

3.3.9 Feedback Assessment/Analysis

You should always be looking for feedback from both, your clients as well as employees. This may come as a casual comment from them to you through the guide or you may ask for it in a formal manner by means of a questionnaire. This feedback received can be:

  • positive feedback
  • negative feedback

It is always a pleasure to receive positive feedback because it is a motivating factor for the employees and the company. Whatever may be the feedback, you should listen to it actively. It may pertain to things like, “this guide’s English was so clear”, and “this guide’s concepts are so clear”. When feedback comes in this form with stress on ‘This” it means others in comparison are not clear enough or are not conceptually strong. Feedback in the forms “we didn’t enjoy the visit to monument because: it was so hot”, you in such situations cannot do anything about weather but on your future tours you can take precaution like:

  • Visit such places in the morning,
  • Combine visits with refreshment breaks,
  • Making sure that waiting bus is with air conditioned, and
  • Advise people in advance so that they prepare themselves.

In fact feedback is essential both, for quality management in your operations as well as promotion.

3.3.10 Human Resource Planning and Development

As a professional tour operator you should always remember the importance of training and retraining of your employees. Human Resource Development assumes much greater importance in tour operations business than any other activity because tour operations are highly vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances and factors changes with respect to airfare, bilateral-agreements between hosts and generating countries, visa regulations, currency exchange rules and other tour operation activities. If you fail to induct right kind of employees for the right job at the right time to work in the crucial areas of tour operation, there are fair chances of your being unsuccessful in this business. The required human resources in tour operations vary from unskilled to highly skilled, performing variety of jobs at difficult times. For instance, itinerary preparation is a highly skilled job calling for sound knowledge of the world geography, different time zones, rules related to currency transactions, airlines schedules and their connectivity and so on. On the other hand, tour counsellors are primarily responsible for attending the inquiries of customers and suggesting them the most suitable options to choose from. Anyone with good communication and trained for this job can perform this job. In other words, much experience or technical information is not required to make this task more simple. Tour operators have divided the world in to travel markets and different divisions are made responsible for each travel market. Role of employees in unskilled category if given required training can prove to be too the ambassador of your company. For example, a driver while performing pick ups can leave an everlasting impression about your company. If you have trained drivers only then they would know the importance of applying brakes softly or not blowing horns loudly which otherwise cause inconvenience to weary tourist.

3.4 Use of Technology

In this competitive world of travel business, one has to be up to date about the application of technologies available to receive and provide information. Computers are the fastest and surest way to get information across. In case of two or more computers in an office, it is better to get LAN installed. With the LAN installed, each of the employee can do their work on any computer in the office. This will ensure that work is completed in time on whichever computer it is done. Usage of such computers connected with LAN ask for password for each employee so that files stored cannot be tampered with by unauthorised access. The latest addition of “internet” has become a part and parcel of all business transactions. Time has come when every tour operation company has it own travel portal. This shows the extent of internet usage.

For any agency, it is important to have connectivity with any of the Centralised Reservation System (CRS) whether Galelio or Amadeus or any other CRS for hotel working, car booking and so on. The use of technology has even gone to the extent that fortnightly settlement of accounts take place through IATA settlement plans. As a manager, it is therefore advisable that you not only undergo training on such reservation software from time to time but also encourage your employees to go for such trainings. This can bear good dividends for your company

 
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