Inbound Tour Operators (ITOs) are one of the most important distribution channels available to small tour or activity businesses.
Here’s what you need to know about how you can work with them.
Before we get too carried away, let’s recap who these guys are and how they work.
ITOs – also known as ‘ground operators’ or ‘destination management companies‘ – are the local experts in a certain destination’s tourism products. They pick out ‘export-ready’ products that they promote overseas through other distributors.
Anyone from a travel agent to a meeting planner will come to an ITO with certain specifications. The ITO then plans the itinerary, selects the tourism products to include, and coordinates all reservations for accommodation, tours, transport and meals.
Because they have access to overseas markets, ITOs can be an extremely reliable source of bookings for niche tour operators. The hard part is making the cut so you get listed as an export-ready tourism product.
If you can answer ‘yes’ to the above questions, then you’re in good shape to present your business to an ITO for consideration.
Be prepared with the following:
You should also detail how you will handle complaints. Even though it’s not something that comes up often, it will show you have thought everything through and are well-prepared.
If you don’t know where to find them, then start going to networking events. They can be industry events or trade workshops.
Once you have their details, then give them a sales call every few months. Keep them clued in on any changes you’ve made to your products. You may want to offer a ‘famil‘ or ‘familiarisation visit’, where they can test out the product for themselves.
Keeping the relationship strong is another task to factor in. You must be professional and reliable. Always respond quickly when they request information from you and keep true to the deadlines that you promise – especially when it comes to paying them!
To learn more about working with agents, why not download our latest Industry Survey eBooks. Did you know that 89.09% of respondents from our latest United States and Canada Industry Survey results said that they are working with less than 50 agents?
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