Terminology for Tour Operators

New to the industry? Confused? Let us explain some terms.

On this page we’ll try to clearly define the terms you need to know to run a tour business, and interact in our Tourpreneur Facebook Group.

General Tour Industry Terms

  • Tour
    This is a catch-all term that implies a type of travel experience that takes place over time, visiting different sights. It could last 1 hour or 30 days, and be done as a walk, or in vehicle. It could be a solo traveler or a group of 50 people. Other words might be used to describe the same thing: tour, experience, journey, excursion, etc. It usually implies something organized, either by the traveler themselves, or a tour operator, who designs and delivers a tour for a traveler or group of travelers.
  • Guest
    Thanks to Disney, this is what we generally use to refer to our customers. But it’s the same as customer, passenger (PAX), traveler, etc. 
  • Day Tour
    A type of experience that begins and ends in the same day. Usually used to distinguish an experience from a multi-day tour.
  • Multi-Day Tour
    Any type of experience that lasts for more than one day.
  • Package Tour
    A kind of experience in which several different components are bundled together: it may or may not include airfare, hotels, guided experiences, meals, etc.
  • Group Tour
    You’ll see these terms used differently to a kind of experience in which separate individuals or smaller groups come together to share an experience. Group tours can be public or private.
  • Public Tour
    As the name implies, this is a tour that’s open to the general public to sign up. The tour therefore consists of a variety of people who don’t already know each other.
  • Private Tour
    A tour that is sold specifically to an already-organized group of travelers who don’t wish to experience the tour with others. A private tour might be a couple, a small group of friends, or a large church group.
  • Pre-Formed/Affinity Group
    These are commonly used terms in the multi-day tour space to refer to a group tour not made up of individual solo travelers & couples, but instead of an alread-formed large group of travelers. An “affinity group” shares a common trait—they belong to a church, a retirement community, or a family reunion traveling together, for example. A pre-formed group might also be created by a “Group Leader” who sells a tour for a tour operator, often in exchange for a free trip or a commission.
  • Escorted Tour
    Used most often in the multi-day tour space, an escorted tour means you’re traveling with an escort (old fashioned term), more commonly referred to today as a tour manager, tour director, tour leader, or trip leader. The TM’s job is to handle the logistics of keeping the group together, checked into hotels, arranging meals, etc. They work for the tour operator.
  • Guided Tour
    In short, an organized excursion led by an individual or individuals. “Tour Guide” is the generalized term, but a guide could be a museum “docent” or an adventure guide, tour leader, etc.
  • Self-Guided Tour
  • Activity
  • Attraction
  • Tours & Activities Industry
  • DMO/CVB/Tourism Board
    A Tourism Board or Destination Management Organization (DMO) or Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) are all essentially the same thing. — an organization (public, private, or a mix) whose goal it is to promote a destination, be it a city, region or country. Examples include NYC & Company and Visit Scotland.

Types of Tour Operators

  • Tour Operator
    A business that organizes and sells tours. They sell to a customer, and possibly work with vendors (hotels, restaurants, vehicle companies, etc.) to create an organized tour experience. In short, operators do the grunt work.
  • Travel Agent/Agency
    In general, an agency works with travelers, and books travel components to relieve the traveler’s burden of figuring it out on their own. An agency might book a tour operator’s tour as part of the services they provide the travel, in exchange for a commission from the operator.
  • [insert word here] Operator
    Tour Operator is a general term, but that’s not the only kind of operator out there. You might also be an adventure operator, watersports operator, ATV rental operator, you name it. But in all cases, you’re not an agency booking someone else’s service, you’re providing the service yourself.
  • Day (or Multi-Day) Tour Operator
    Both are subsets of “tour operators” in general. It might be used in the Tourpreneur community when we’re referring to the specific challenges of a specific kind of operator, since the products and challenges of each type of tour can be very different.
  • Inbound / Receptive Operator / DMC (destination management company)
    These are all versions of the same thing, with terminology that is sometimes preferred over the other words for various reasons.

Sales, Marketing & Software Terms

  • SEO
    Search Engine Optimization
  • PPC
    Pay-per-click
  • OTA
    Online Travel Agency
  • Marketplace
    A general term for the kind of website platform that sells a wide variety of tours online.
  • Restech/Booking Software
  • SaaS
    Short for “Software as a Service” — this is how the tech industry refers usually subscription-based websites or software that help you do something. Examples of SaaS include booking software and CRMs.
  • Supplier
    In the language of selling tours to customers on a platform, tour operators are suppliers; you supply tours that are then re-sold by the platform.
  • Connectivity
    This is the dark art of how you, the operator (supplier) connect to sales channels.
  • Distributor/Reseller
    These are sales channels that sell tickets to your tours on behalf of you. They could be everything from an online marketplace like Viator and GetYourGuide, to a personal travel agent or hotel concierge..
  • Channel Manager
    This is software that helps you manager all your different sales channels in one place.