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Tour Operator

What does a Tour Operator do?

Tour operators organise and accompany groups of holidaymakers on tours to a wide variety of locations. They are responsible for ensuring that travel arrangements run as smoothly as possible from beginning to end, as well as providing practical support throughout the trip. Tour operators have in-depth knowledge of a particular area/region and may act as tour guides during the tour. They use their language skills, and knowledge of the culture or history of an area, to ensure the tour goes smoothly and that their clients enjoy themselves.

A tour operator’s duties usually include:

  • welcoming groups of holidaymakers at their starting point
  • checking tickets and other relevant documents, seat allocations and any special requirements
  • communicating a range of information on itineraries, destinations and culture
  • liaising with coach operators, airlines, hoteliers and resort reps
  • agreeing service levels, contracts and costs
  • producing brochures and internet-based information
  • marketing holidays to clients via travel agents, websites, brochures and television advertising
  • handling bookings, invoicing and issuing of tickets
  • providing feedback after a tour as part of a debrief session.

What qualifications do I need?

This area of work is open to all graduates and entry without a degree or diploma is possible, though it can take time to build up the required level of experience. Graduates with degrees in leisure, travel, tourism, management, marketing, IT, business, languages or hotel and catering management may have an advantage. Another route into this work is to do in-service training as an apprentice in the leisure, travel and tourism sector. An appropriate SATOUR accredited training course is required in order to register as a tour guide and be granted a licence for a particular city, a wider region or countrywide.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• English
• Languages
• History
• Geography


Where can I study?

False Bay TVET College
National Certificate: Tourism N4-N6

Alt. Academy
Tourist Guiding

Boston City Campus
Travel and Tourism Operations Certificate – NQF Level 4

Tour Operators Management Course

Drumbeat Academy
Tour Operations Course

Gold Reef Guides
Various Courses

Where can I get more info?

Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) – www.tbcsa.org.za
South African Tourism Board (SATOUR) – www.satour.info


Interview with a Tour Operator




Why did you choose this profession?
I decided to follow my passion and my hobby… wine. I had come to a point at which working for the corporate industry was taking its toll on my family life, physical health and mental well-being.

What does your job involve?
We basically source unique destinations with a cultural significance to expose to both local and international travellers alike; somewhere they would never see on the commercial tourist route. In this way we support small family establishments that employ and source products from the local community. Local is lekker.

What training did you undergo, and where?
To become a qualified tour guide you have to complete a THETA-approved tour guide course (several establishments offer this). My training with regards to wine was a result of self-exploration. I’ve been involved in various industries over the years, from hospitality to construction, and they have all aided in building experience, which I benefit from immensely in my day-to-day operations.

Describe a typical day on the job
On tour days, I collect guests and take them around the winelands, providing quite a bit of education regarding the various wines, their origin, and what is involved at the vineyards and cellar – all presented in an informative, but not too stuffy or pretentious way. Office days vary from dealing with bookings, to quoting on personalised tours, or marketing and product development. I enjoy the diversity.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Job satisfaction, creating an awareness and appreciation of wine, developing products that are unique, and providing travellers with a different perspective on our country and it’s diverse culture. I also enjoy assisting in community development and ‘giving back’ where I can.

What don’t you like?
Self-righteous people that think the world owes them a huge favour!

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Converting sweet rosé drinkers and teaching them to appreciate a quality red (seriously!), being offered partnership in a small company, and being given the opportunity to capitalise on my skills and experience and spearhead a new approach to tourism.

What are your future goals?
To make my own wine. To own a property where we can become self-sustainable. To further involve the local community through upliftment projects. Steering clear of the rat race!

Are there certain traits one should possess?
In this position you have to be a people person, which no training can provide for because it’s a personality thing. You also need foresight, to be able to identify problem areas before they arise, to think on your feet and, of course, to have a love for travel.

Any advice for someone starting out?
Always be honest; be willing to learn from others; know that the more you put in, the more rewarding it becomes; if you have ideas, explore them, but don’t stay a dreamer – act on them and make it happen!