Tour Operator

What is a Tour Operator?

A Tour Operator is usually responsible for creating and co-ordinating package holidays.  They work independently or for large tour companies. 



These packaged vacations usually include:

  • all necessary travel arrangements (flights, airport shuttles, busses, boat, trains, etc)
  • accommodation
  • entrance fees to museums, art galleries, parks, historical sites and other places of interest etc

Some Tour Operators specialise in a particular field of vacations. 

For example:

  • wildlife photography holidays
  • art & painting holidays
  • adventure holidays (gorilla trekking, climbing Kilimanjaro etc)
  • golfing holidays
  • walking (slack-packing) holidays
  • 4×4 holidays etc

If a Tour Operator specialises – then they usually come with in-depth knowledge and passion for that kind of tour.  This is necessary as guests will have a load of questions and the Tour Operator will need to be on top of their game and be ready, most of the time, with the answers.

What does a Tour Operator do?

  • researching and visiting new places of interest so that they may be included in a ‘new’ tour
  • meeting with local communities to discuss possible inclusions in tours
  • planning and co-ordinating itineraries
  • working out costings
  • making bookings, paying deposits, issuing tickets
  • printing out itineraries for clients
  • assisting clients with any queries
  • dealing with problems:  lost luggage, delayed flights etc
  • sometimes traveling with their tour group
  • keeping detailed records

Are you … ?

  • interested in the travel industry?
  • a peoples’ person?
  • organised?
  • polite and professional?
  • friendly and patient?
  • detail orientated?
  • fit and healthy?
  • a person with logistical skills?
  • a problem solver?
  • willing to work long and unusual hours?
  • have excellent communication skills
  • enthusiastic and energetic?
  • able to remain calm in emergencies?

How do I become a Tour Operator?

There are no direct ways of becoming a Tour Operator.

You may consider first becoming a Tour Guide for a couple of years and collect experience along route before becoming a Tour Operator or, you could complete various courses in tourism that will assist you in becoming a successful Tour Operator. 

Obviously the more skills you collect, the more successful you will be.

Here are a few examples:


Offers a 3 year Diploma in Travel and Tourism Management


Offers a few courses including a 3 year Travel and Tourism Operations Certificate – NQF Level 4


Offers a 6 month course in Tour Operators Management


Offers a short course in Tour Operations.


OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER: Tour Guide, Tour Manager and Travel Agent 

Is becoming a Tour Operator the right career choice for me?

See below for more info.