Sectors in travel: Tour operators

If the thought of being directly involved with putting together holidays excites you, working for a tour operator could be the ideal career.

Tour operators organise trips from start to finish. They source the destinations, negotiate hotel contracts, organise excursions, run tours, put together itineraries, produce marketing materials and price up holidays.

Some sell holidays direct to holidaymakers. Others sell only through travel agents. Some sell both ways. Those that sell through agents often have on-the-road sales teams to educate agents about their products and how to sell them.

The sector is brimming with exciting roles for anyone who loves travel and wants to get to know destinations and how they operate in detail.

Companies often specialise in different areas and types of travel, from long-haul tailor-made itineraries to short‑haul ‘fly and flop’ holidays. Other categories include city breaks, luxury holidays, ski trips, and coach or rail travel.

Some operators specialise in the increasingly popular adventure holiday and escorted tour sectors, while others focus on specific destinations such as the US, Indian Ocean or Caribbean.

The jobs in this sector range from product roles involved in finding and putting together holidays, to sales and customer service, operations, marketing, commercial, IT development and communications.

The increasing importance of sustainability means many operators are putting more resources into boosting their green credentials, such as by contributing to carbon-reduction schemes. Others put an emphasis on helping communities in the destinations in which they operate. To do this, they require staff with an interest in and knowledge of this area.

Not all roles are office-based either. Those working in sales and training may visit travel agencies around the country or attend promotional events and trade shows. Product and commercial teams often travel abroad to source hotels and destinations, as well as to hammer out deals with property owners.

You may also be tasked with taking travel agents away to show them around the destinations your company sells – and all in the name of work.

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‘Reach out to companies that you admire’

works at Artisan Travel Company while pursuing a master’s in digital marketing at the University of Manchester

“During my time at Northumbria University, I became a student ambassador for the Institute of Travel & Tourism’s Future You initiative. It fuelled my passion for the travel industry and I decided to blend it with my interest in marketing.

“I met Amy Hope, the managing director of Artisan Travel Company, through this, which eventually led to my current role.

“Before diving into my master’s in digital marketing, I pursued a degree in business with tourism management.

“Working at Artisan Travel Company is a blessing. The company’s values align perfectly with my own. I started as a marketing intern and now I’m working as a remote social media and marketing assistant.”

My advice…

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies that you admire. That’s how I got my foot in the door with Artisan. I liked what they were all about, so I reached out to Amy and asked if they needed someone for the summer.

“I’m grateful every day that I decided to take that step out of my comfort zone.”

Credit: Jodie Beardmore Photography
‘We have exciting opportunities coming up’

is emerging talent & apprenticeships manager at Tui Group

“I started out in local government 35 years ago. I was a teenage mum, but I was determined to make something of my life. I asked my employer to pay for me to do a business studies degree and they agreed. I then progressed in HR/learning and development and did qualifications right up to master’s level.

“It’s especially important to me to give back and over the last 15 years I’ve geared my career towards managing emerging talent and apprenticeships. I’ve been at Tui for eight months and really enjoy the atmosphere, the people, and the ‘come as you are’ inclusion philosophy.

“I’d not worked in travel before but it’s the happiest place I’ve ever worked. My team and I work to ensure there are opportunities for all young people and that under-represented groups such as ethnic minorities and disabled people have access to them.”

My advice…

“See our website for testimonials from other apprentices. Be bold, apply. We have some exciting opportunities coming up.”

Credit: Kris Piotrowski Photography