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 Issuance, Acceptance and Approval
  5. Group Requirements


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.


Participation Requirements

To be considered for a FIT program, you must consider the following:

  • Rates offered must include taxes & service charges and are customarily at least 30% lower than normal retail to enable inbound operators to offer a competitive program. Obviously, potential volume 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).
  • Special Tour Menus.


General Contract Inclusions

  • Exact address. List the exact address of the establishment and include directions and a map if available.
  • Billing address. Be sure to indicate if this is different from the actual location.
  • Telephone and fax numbers. Include numbers for the sales office and for the actual restaurant (these are often different and operators need to be able to contact someone onsite after the sales office closes).
  • Contact person. The name of the contact person onsite as well as the name of the person who negotiated the contract, menus and rates.
  • Retail value of the meal. The total price of the meal including all service charges and taxes needs to be lower than what the customer would pay if they were to walk in off the street.
  • Hours of operation. Include when someone would be on location to answer the telephone and able to assist in case of an emergency.
  • Languages. If there is more than one language spoken by employees, it is nice to have a list of those other languages that are spoken. (This is often a comfort factor.)
  • Act of God policy. Be sure to clearly state your restaurant’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

  • There are two options for the use of vouchers.
    • The usage of the operator’s own voucher (that has been approved by the restaurant). There may be different vouchers depending on the meal being offered. Each would have a different value. In some cases, there would be a menu printed on the voucher or there may be a choice of entrees for each voucher type.
    • The restaurant may offer their own voucher. This would work the same as the operator’s voucher, only these vouchers would have to be prepaid and purchased in advance. The inbound operator would purchase a quantity that would vary with each establishment. An average purchase is 25 vouchers.
  • Establish the meals to be offered that would apply for each voucher type.
  • Establish the pricing of each of the meals to be offered with the appropriate voucher to be inclusive of all taxes and gratuities.
  • Since there are different vouchers for different meals, specific times would have to be established for the usage of each voucher type. For example: breakfast hours, luncheon hours, and dinner hours.

Group Requirements

  • Size requirement to qualify for special group meal pricing may differ by establishment. A common policy is 20 people constitute a group.
  • Complimentary meal policy. One complimentary meal per group or one complimentary meal per 20 paid meals are common policies.
  • Establishment of group menus. All prices must be set in advance. It is necessary to have menu prices that are inclusive of all taxes and gratuities.
  • Payment procedures. Direct billing may already be established based on an existing FIT voucher program. If it is not, a suitable deposit policy must be determined. Deadline dates for deposit and payment are set at the time of contracting. There are two commonly used options:
    • Flat dollar amount per group.
    • Percentage of the total estimated bill.
  • Determine the form of payment that will be accepted for deposit and for the balance. Also advise when final payment is expected (before the function or at the conclusion of the function). Payment options may include but are not limited to:
    • Company check.
    • Credit card.
  • Set cancellation policy. Advise when the deposit is totally refundable and after what date it becomes no longer refundable. Many restaurants allow a non-refundable deposit to be used for another future group if there is a cancellation after the specified cancellation deadline. Clearly note your policy on this matter.

Establishment of due dates for final menu selection. Be sure to indicate when final guarantees are due in terms of number of guests attending. A common deadline is 72 hours prior to the function.