The difference between a travel agent and a tour operator does seem to cause some confusion.

Put very simply, a travel agent is someone who sells and books all your travel arrangements as a package – flights, hotels, holidays and tours (offered by various tour operators) to destinations all over the world. They don't package or operate the tour themselves, they just sell it. Travel agents usually belong to international/national bodies like IATA (International Air Transport Association), ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents), and our local body, ASATA (Association of Southern African Travel Agents). In the UK we are a member of ABTA – the Association of British Travel Agents, which includes financial protection.

On the other hand, a tour operator is someone who usually operates their own tours and, like us, may also provide custom tours by booking and arranging all the details, such as accommodation, transport, transfers, meals, guides and optional activities. Tour operators create tours by packaging various services and attractions into an itinerary, and quite often they are land operators who physically conduct the tour, using their own vehicles and guides. Many tour operators don’t book international flights – rather, the focus is on your travel arrangements once you arrive, which may include booking domestic or regional flights.

In Southern Africa, tour operators usually belong to SATSA (Southern Africa Tourism Services Association). We have been a member of SATSA since 2006.