An outline of package tours

Package tours are excursions or holidays which “package” a variety of services together to make a single “combined” trip. Commonly they combine such things as transport, accommodation and meals. They may also include the provision of a tour guide and/or leader. Tours can be long or short in duration and distance. They may be a one-day or overnight package, or they could be a period of a month or more.

Types of Packages:

The types of packages available in today’s market are vast and varied. This ensures all consumers’ needs and desires are met. Package tours can be further broken down into specific tour types. Tours available range from Special-interest tours, Adventure tours, City or Regional tours, Group tours and Fully Escorted tours.

Special-interest tours are designed around a particular interest area which could include arts, food and wine, sport, cultural or agricultural. Specialist tours may include an expert or celebrity guide who relates to the theme of a tour (e.g. a gardening expert accompanying a garden tour, or an art expert accompanying an art tour).

Adventure tours are designed to allow the consumer to participate in their area of interest for the length of the tour and more experience based. They generally are physical and require a certain level of fitness, however, can sometimes be modified to meet your needs depending on the other travelers. Some examples of this tour type include diving, rock or mountain climbing, horse riding, skiing or cycling.

City/regional tours normally last for one full day or less. They follow a fixed itinerary and will visit areas of interest in a specific place, whether that is historic, religious or cultural, refreshments or meals are often included.

Group tours also follow a fixed and pre-arranged itinerary. They often only take place depending on the number of travelers i.e. they require a certain number of travelers in order to go ahead or it becomes a financial cost rather than profitable. It is also worth noting there are a maximum number of travelers on group tours too, as determined by the mode of transport – a 56 seater coach can accommodate no more passengers and therefore the number limit is defined. Group tours are generally always escorted or a tour guide service is provided.

Fully escorted tours are often a good idea for solo travelers and especially women travelling alone. This type of tour offers a sense of security or overcomes language and cultural barriers. Also, these types of tours are often somewhat educational, the escort providing local, historical and cultural knowledge or insight gives the consumer are more worthwhile experience and understanding of the country (place) visited.

                                                                                             Temple of literature - Hanoi, Vietnam

Advantages for the consumer:
Cost saving and budgeting - the price of a trip when organised as a package is generally less as travel agencies bulk buy their package deals and therefore can sell the tours at a lower and more competitive rate. This is an instant cost saving benefit for the consumer, as the discount travel agencies receive is generally passed on to the consumer. Also, as the tour often includes all meals or trips for example, this reduces any uncertainty about the additional costs and allows the consumer to budget properly for costs associated with their travel. For example, if airport pick-ups or taxi transfers are pre-booked and paid for beforehand there is no potentially expensive surprise when travelling to the accommodation on arrival at the destination.

Responsibility is on the operator - the lack of responsibility on the traveler is an advantage. If something goes wrong, e.g. a flight is delayed, resulting in the traveler missing a connecting flight, it is not the traveler’s responsibility to arrange a new ticket. The responsibility lies with the airline or tour operator. In a certain respect, travelers can relax knowing if something goes wrong, someone else is there to solve the problem.

Convenience and time-saving - this is definitely the most convenient way to arranging a vacation or tour. The travel agency deals with all the arrangements relating to airlines, hotels, transfers directly through the tour provider. This saves the consumer the effort and the time of contacting each company/service individually.

Social - this is frequently a main reason why people may opt to travel on a package tour. The chances of social interaction are higher, allowing the fostering of short or long term friendships. People regularly choose a tour which ensures they are socialising with people of a similar age, for example, young people who like to party may opt for an 18-30 party group tour, some adults may choose to stay in accommodation which caters to the needs of children and will opt for a family tour or some people may choose to go on adult only tours to avoid children completely!

Quality of service - tour operators (those who provide the travel agency with the tour package) spend a great deal of time assessing the airlines, hotels, sight-seeing operators etc, which they use to make up the tour package. By doing so they ensure a high standard of quality and the consumer can have peace of mind. Tour companies are eager to meet their own business needs and so they ensure that the most frequented areas of interest (cultural or geographical) are included in their tour, thus meeting the needs of the consumer.

                                                                                               Hue Citadel - Hue City, Vietnam

Advantages for the travel agent:
Agent commission - travel agents normally receive 10% commission on all tours they confirm. Clearly the financial incentive means travel agencies find it extremely advantageous to sell tour packages and not solely flights and/ or accommodation.

Savings in time and cost – in order for a travel agent to put together all the components of a package tour, this would take extensive communication with the different service providers, initially to check rates and availability and then to send through deposits and secure bookings. By using a tour provider, the travel agent only needs to makes one call, send one email or use an online booking system once to confirm the tour package. Clearly this saves a great deal of time, freeing up the agent to work for other consumers, thus increasing sales and commission.

Wide variety of package tours available - this means the travel agent can always make suggestions on tours which match the needs of the consumer. The high number of very different packages available allows people with possibly lower budgets to still enjoy tours.

                                                                                                               Hoian - Vietnam

Disadvantages for the consumer:
Inflexibility - when a traveler purchases a tour they commit to follow the itinerary, flight schedule and accommodation arrangements. Generally they are unable to change or reschedule their tour and whilst on the tour they cannot change their plans as they wish. For example, they must be at a point of pick-up at a certain time and if they are not there they delay the rest of the tour (if they are booked onto a group tour that may create problems and possibly complaints from other travelers). Also, if travelers have any special requirements, again for example, dietary requirements, but they are out camping in the bush overnight, the tour provider may not be able to meet their needs but substituting the food provided. It is the responsibility of the travel agent at the time of booking to ensure all possible issues are raised and the traveler’s needs are addressed due to the inflexible nature of a tour package.

                                                                                            Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam

Disadvantages for the travel agent:
Control - travel agents have little or no say over the tour operator’s choice of services, restaurants, accommodation or attractions included in a tour package. As a result they must ensure they carefully choose the correct package which provides a high standard of quality, or is the most appropriate for the particular market. Also the business of tour packages and the number of tour providers is vast. This makes is very difficult for all travel agents to become and remain knowledgeable of all the available tour ‘products’ and so extensive time must be spent researching choices and selecting the best one for the consumer.

The saving in time and money a travel agent saves a consumer is invaluable. Contacts in the industry regarding reservations and availability then acquiring the best prices to suit an individual cannot be overlooked when considering travelling.

Travel agencies receive 10% commission on most packaged tours; however if the agency has a preferred product arrangement with a certain company this amount could be higher. As a commission is taken out before forwarding the final payment to the tour operator, the agency is able to receive the reward for its effort without delay.

Tour operators and wholesalers often reserve the right to alter their itineraries for various reasons such as weather, strikes or the outbreak of fighting in a particular area. Any price changes that might occur prior to departure are likely to be passed on the client.