Receptive tour operators are based in the United States and sell their services to tour operators throughout the world. These services include hotel accommodations, ground transportation, attractions, restaurants, etc.
1. How Inbound Tour Operators Work
2. Participation Requirements
3. General Contract Inclusions
4. Voucher Acceptance and Approval
5. Other Helpful Information for the Attraction
6. Sample Cancellation/Refund Policy
7. Sample Waiver/Release
8. Sample FIT/Group Attraction Request/Confirmation Fax
How Inbound Tour Operators Work
- Inbound tour operators primarily offer FIT or independent travel products, so the majority of this information refers to independent travel. See the Group section below for more information about international inbound groups.
- The inbound operator prints a confidential tariff (a catalog/brochure/electronic promotion featuring their services, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, attractions, restaurants, etc.), using the net, non-commissionable rates restaurants provide to them. The inbound operator distributes the tariff to their clients, international wholesalers, tour operators and other travel producers. The inbound operator’s tariff is never distributed to consumers.
- The overseas operators use the rates in the confidential tariff and mark them up to include their profit and, as necessary, a travel agent’s commission. The overseas operator then prints their own brochure and distributes it to retail travel agents, operators, and/or consumers.
- For FIT travel, the consumers travel to their destination with vouchers issued by their tour operator and redeem them for services purchased.
To be considered for an inbound tour operator’s program, you must establish the following:
- Rates that are customarily at least 30% below your published retail rates in order for receptive operators to offer a competitive program and book individual and group business. Obviously, potential volume and the price of your attraction will dictate the discount you are able to give, but this is the minimum standard percentage discount to be considered. Your rates should be ready to offer in April for the following contracting year.
- Billing where applicable (credit applications).
- Voucher system (see Voucher Acceptance and Approval below).
General Contract Inclusions
- Contact name and information for the inbound operator and attraction. Provide alternates for weekends, holidays, etc., so any unexpected occurrences can be rectified in a timely manner. If attraction location is different than the sales office, that contact information should be included so direct contact can be made to onsite managers before and after business hours. Include any accounting contacts and addresses if different than sales representatives. Use phones, addresses, contacts, faxes, and emails.
- Clearly defined dates of term.
- Authorized signature. Make sure contract is signed by an executive of the company and returned to the attraction.
- Include all detail List all services, rates, hours of operation, and conditions particular to those services that will be sold by the inbound operator. This includes the name of the products, descriptions, available languages, retail and receptive rates. Rates should be inclusive of all taxes and gratuities.
- Advise of visit duration. How long is the attraction available to them and how long do they expect to be there? These are important facts that will help you staff properly.
- Suggested times of visit. It may be more convenient for the group to visit at off-peak times. This may include the waiting periods during peak and off peak visitation.
- Reservation policy or free sale. A reservation system should be included if reservations are needed. Reservation forms must include all information the attraction needs to process the reservation. Obtain a passenger list, if applicable. (See example.) Provide the confirmation policy that the attraction will respond within — one hour, 24 hours, etc.
- Voucher acceptance policy. If the product is Free Sale, simply provide the voucher acceptance policy. (See below.)
- Group policies. List group policies and restrictions, reconfirm policies, etc.
- Deposit and payment policies. Advise acceptable methods of payment (cash, company check, credit card), due dates for deposit, balances due, and net terms, etc.
- Cancellation/refund policies. Include time frame from total reimbursement through non-refundable (see example). Consider “rollover” of non-refundable monies received to apply to future bookings.
- Complimentary policy. Determine what number makes sense for you to provide an incentive to operators to receive comps on volume business. Some inbound operators are provided one comp per 20 or 40 tickets purchased, depending on your venue.
- Credit applications. Ensure that your accounting department has all of the inbound operator credit information and notify the operator when they are approved. Floating deposits are another way to conduct business in lieu of or in conjunction with credit relationships.
- Meeting/waiting areas. State exact information regarding where any VIP queuing or service areas are located for voucher clients and stick to them. Also indicate if this is the regular ticket booth.
- Certificates of insurance. If needed, provide processing information so certificates of insurance can be processed efficiently.
- Waivers & releases. Any waivers or releases should be included in contracts. This includes Acts of God such as catastrophic occurrences, causes beyond the control of the attraction (see example).
- Health Restrictions. Restrictions of passengers using the product – health, risk, claustrophobia, extended walking, exposure to weather, minimum age requirements, etc.
- Reservations information. Reservations will be needed for meals. Limited availability, peak periods, show times, etc. should be part of your contract so no miscommunication occurs.
- Act of God policy. Be sure to clearly state your attraction’s policy on cancellations in case of Acts of God and other situations beyond the reasonable control of either party. Such instances could include fires, earthquakes, floods, weather, riots, labor strikes and police/military action.
Voucher Issuance, Acceptance and Approval
Vouchers should be submitted and pre-approved by the attraction before being used. This allows time for the attraction to train front line personnel before clients arrive. The following is typical information needed on vouchers. Customize to your own attraction.
- Exact name of tour and what language was purchased. If there are upgrade options to the product that the inbound operator has contracted with you, make arrangements for upgrades or make sure the operator knows these are upgrades the client may become interested in once he arrives at the attraction. Additionally, if there are similar products, other than the one which was purchased, that may confuse the client, the voucher should provide an accurate description and length of time. Upgrades may include other languages, additional products, or a longer version of a tour, etc.
- Number of adults, number of children.
- Hours of operation, days of week, exceptions, holidays, etc.
- Name of clients, if applicable (any other client info needed).
- Phone number of attraction (preferably a toll free and a local).
- Amounts to be exchanged if any.
- Point of embarkation/departure or exact address of attraction.
- Any accounting codes for billing and reconciliation.
Other Helpful Information for the Attraction
- A system in-house to notify front line personnel in regards to client relationships, vouchers accepted, etc. should be implemented and updated as needed. It is an inconvenience to customers and embarrassing to the inbound operator if front line personnel do not know which operators and what policies are in effect. Make sure your VIP/voucher windows are clearly designated and staffed.
- The confidentiality of the net rates must be maintained at all times. This means staff should never discuss rates with the customer. Contact the operator directly, preferably after the customer has left and clear up any miscommunications.
- Let the inbound operator know of any additional offerings your attraction provides in case the client becomes interested. This may prevent the client from feeling they were misled, cheated, or uninformed. Let your inbound operator know about gift shops, restaurants, alternate locations, etc.
- Provide a lenient, but controlled complimentary policy for the inbound company, so your product can be tested and familiarized.
Sample Cancellation/Refund Policy
Your deposit is refundable if we receive your written cancellation notice at least 30 days prior to the scheduled trip date. Fifty percent of your deposit is refundable if we receive your written cancellation notice within 30 and 14 days prior to the scheduled trip date or you may apply the full amount to a future booking. Your deposit is non-refundable if we receive your written cancellation notice less than 14 days prior to the scheduled trip date.
(Attraction) shall not be held liable for any cancellation or postponement due to equipment failure, labor difficulties, additional costs, or any causes beyond its control. (Attraction) reserves the right to change rates and schedules without prior notice and to substitute equivalent products as needed.