What's the difference between tour operators and agencies? | Fair Voyage

What’s the difference between tour operators and agencies?

When we refer to tour operators, we mean the company in your destination that’s providing your local tour arrangement services, and is duly licensed as tour operator for these activities. For most of our core destinations and travel experiences – such climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or game drives to the Serengeti National Park, or visits to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area – local law & regulations mandate that your tour must be operated by a duly licensed local company. This means that all such tours are, by default, operated by local companies, no matter whether sold to you directly by these local companies or indirectly by agents. It also means that an independent guide who’s not employed by (or the owner of) such a duly licensed company is not legally allowed to operate such tours for you.

Travel agents (when duly registered) are companies who sell tours operated by other companies. They are mostly based internationally, closer to you as traveller. However, they might also be based locally. For example, a company solely specialized on operating Kilimanjaro climbs might act as agent for another company specialized on operating safaris, in order to be able to arrange your entire trip locally for you.

Traditionally, tour operators have specialized on operating tours locally, while agents have specialized on packaging & selling those tours to you, typically through a so-called white labelling or sub-contracting agreement. This means that agents sell tours to you in their own name, even though they don’t actually operate the tours themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with this agency–operator set-up; in fact most industries operate in a similar way: Imagine you go to a boutique coffee roaster to buy coffee beans. Have you every considered calling up a farmer in Ethiopia or elsewhere to buy the coffee directly from them? Of course not! Each company provides the function in the value chain they’re best at, and you as consumer stand to benefit from such an efficient set-up. The travel industry is no different.

Recently, being an agent or international has received a bad connotation amongst the conscious travel community. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Read 5 reasons why international agents are important for conscious travellers here. 

About the author

Alex is our Founder, Strategist and Business Developer. She is also our Kilimanjaro expert and personally in charge of all our Kilimanjaro content and offers.

Our Traveller Reviews

  • 5 star ratingA great company to help find responsible tour operators Choosing a Kilimanjaro tour company is no easy task. Fair... read more

    Ed A. Avatar
    Ed A.
    1 month ago
  • 5 star ratingGreat Kili Climb with Responsible Operator Alexandra helped me plan a successful tour and summit of... read more

    Davegetsitdone Avatar
    Davegetsitdone
    1 month ago
  • 5 star ratingGreat experience with Fair Voyage! I came across Fair Voyage in my search for an... read more

    GrandTour41009690679 Avatar
    GrandTour41009690679
    2 months ago
  • Highly recommended for finding and booking sustainable trips with local... read more

    Justyna K. Avatar
    Justyna K.
    2 months ago
  • 5 star ratingAmazing Staff & Service! My friend and I had been planning to climb Kili... read more

    Shimul S. Avatar
    Shimul S.
    2 months ago
  • Tourism is a great way to learn, stay open minded... read more

    Chiara R. Avatar
    Chiara R.
    2 months ago
  • I love Africa and I know that if I were... read more

    Maria C. Avatar
    Maria C.
    2 months ago
  • The best travel agency for Africa I came across offering... read more

    Katharina v. Avatar
    Katharina v.
    2 months ago
  • I would highly recommend Fair Voyage, this is because I... read more

    Kamata N. Avatar
    Kamata N.
    2 months ago
  • I had a wonderful experience and I very much enjoyed... read more

    S.S. Avatar
    S.S.
    Solo Traveller, Canada
    3 months ago
  • The team was very professional. The daily briefings were informative... read more

    L. Z. Avatar
    L. Z.
    Couple Traveller, US
    3 months ago
  • Better than expected . . . experienced team . .... read more

    Nick C. Avatar
    Nick C.
    Solo Traveller, US
    3 months ago
  • Having met Alex on a bicycle trip across Africa, I... read more

    Elizabeth A. Avatar
    Elizabeth A.
    UK
    3 months ago
  • Can highly recommend Fair Voyage!! It is one of the... read more

    Claire C. Avatar
    Claire C.
    Switzerland
    4 months ago
  • Very well organised, great local partnership [translated from German: “Sehr... read more

    Likang Z. Avatar
    Likang Z.
    Solo Traveller, Germany
    6 months ago
  • Everything was perfect. Great patient guide

    Erin C. Avatar
    Erin C.
    Solo Traveller, US
    7 months ago
  • The climb was fantastic, and I made it to the... read more

    Sophie M. Avatar
    Sophie M.
    Solo Traveller, Austria
    1 year ago
  • Very reassuring service. I did not get the first confirmation... read more

    Sherelle P. Avatar
    Sherelle P.
    Solo Traveller, UK
    1 year ago

All You Need To Know To Climb Kilimanjaro

Join A Group To Climb Kilimanjaro

Why Fair Voyage?
#1 platform for 100% ethical climbs—KPAP verified
Choose from over 300 scheduled Kilimanjaro treks
Get independent expert advice—100% free service
Book directly with locals at best prices—guaranteed!
Only top-rated guide companies as per TripAdvisor
Rest assured that your payments are fully insured
error: