Remember, the last time around we told you about the importance of registering your business? If you have already registered, there must be a million things on your mind now. Like building a website, business expansion and hiring resources. Are you really missing an important point in all this?
Sometimes, you don’t have to think out of the box. Just consider all aspects inside it and get your basics right. Like registering yourself as a tour operator. Let’s takes a simple example.
Imagine that you have the perfect driving skills on road. Your friends call you
Michael Schumacher. Now just imagine you are driving every day without a valid driving license. Not a very smart thing to do right? Similarly, even if you have the business acumen and skills but are not registered, it might go against you in the long run.
Sure, it is not compulsory to register with any nodal body as a tour operator in India. However, by becoming a member you are forced to follow the rules and regulations set for travel companies. By doing so, it can actually turn out to be handy for your business growth in the long-term. We will see more on the how and why later.
Rules and regulations for tour operators are important because without it you could have the following scenarios.
Just like any other business, there are rules and regulations for tour operators, which have been put in place by the Government of India as well as recognised global bodies.
Like the fundamentals of building your tour operator website, let’s first understand the fundamentals of the tourism sector in India.
Let’s talk about the crucial role the tourism sector plays towards the economy of India.
Here are some numbers to back it up
No wonder, the Tourism Ministry of India has set-up a National Tourism Policy framework, which sets the vision, agenda, goals and objectives of the tourism sector in India. The Ministry of Tourism is the apex body for formulating national tourism policies and programmes. It also sets the broad regulations for tour operators in India. Inbound tour operators are primarily responsible for handling inbound foreign tourists. That means providing them with various services on their arrival such as: These activities are either outsourced through other ground operators or in collaboration with them. These are tour operators who are specialists in planning and promoting foreign tours to domestic as well as international tourists. They create an itinerary that includes the number of people, countries and other facilities that are required for travelling abroad. They are mostly responsible for arranging your travel documents and getting your visa and passport stamped. They also choose the ideal mode of transport and collaborate with other inbound tour operators. This includes accommodation, sightseeing, conveyance, and other travel-related services.
Do You Need To Be Registered With The Government As A Tour Operator?
Here are the three main categories for tour operators in India:
Inbound Tour Operator
These operators are absolutely crucial for tourism in India because they are creating the first impression for a tourist, the minute they step out of the airport. That’s why the Government of India has created special guidelines for Inbound Tour Operators.
Outbound Tour Operator
No wonder, the Tourism Ministry of India has set-up a National Tourism Policy framework, which sets the vision, agenda, goals and objectives of the tourism sector in India. The Ministry of Tourism is the apex body for formulating national tourism policies and programmes. It also sets the broad regulations for tour operators in India.
Inbound tour operators are primarily responsible for handling inbound foreign tourists. That means providing them with various services on their arrival such as:
These activities are either outsourced through other ground operators or in collaboration with them.
These are tour operators who are specialists in planning and promoting foreign tours to domestic as well as international tourists. They create an itinerary that includes the number of people, countries and other facilities that are required for travelling abroad.
They are mostly responsible for arranging your travel documents and getting your visa and passport stamped. They also choose the ideal mode of transport and collaborate with other inbound tour operators. This includes accommodation, sightseeing, conveyance, and other travel-related services.
Before we get to domestic tour operators, here is an important piece of data for you:
In 2017, the number of domestic tourists in India visiting different states and union territories of the country was 1613.6 million
Domestic tour operators function within the home country and cater to the diverse needs of domestic travellers. They design tour packages through their own outlets and other retail travel agents. They help in the promotion and growth of domestic tourism. This also means being a registered domestic tour operator following certain regulations for tour operators to maintain quality standards in travel activities.
Here is the complete checklist for you to be recognised as a domestic tour operator.
Is Being A Tour Operator Enough? What Next?
No, it’s not. To expand your business you’ll need more tools and resources. That’s where prominent tour operator associations play a major role.
Picture this. There are 1.2 billion people in India. Millions of travellers and thousands of tour operators out there. It’s nearly impossible for the government to keep a tab on all tourism activities.
That’s why there are specialised tour operator associations, which have been setup to monitor travel activities. These are mostly non-profit associations which look into various aspects of tourism in India. It is actually a win-win situation for the government as well as a tour operators.
For The Government
They can ensure if all the guidelines for tour operators are being looked into by these travel associations.
For The Tour Operator
Rest assured as a tour operator, you’ll get access to ample of travel resources and exposure as a an operator. More on that later. There are several tour operator associations in India. In the following section, we have listed some of the leading ones based on the kind of travel operations.
The International Air Transport Association or IATA is the leading trade association for all global airlines. We’re talking about 290 major airlines or 82% of total air traffic. The association has major say when it comes to several aviation causes and issues.
Be part of the global tourism league as a travel agent and tour operator. As an IATA agent, you can connect to global tour operators and tourists to sell your unique travel products or offerings.
Every minute there is something new happening in the aviation and travel industry. Being an IATA agent, you can stay up-to-date with the latest key industry trends, innovations and insights.
As a tour operator taxation can be pretty complex and cumbersome. IATA regularly lobbies with the government to simplify taxation and reduce the burden for tour operators or travel agents.
Here’s how to become an agent of IATA.
Here’s also a quick snapshot of IATA travel agent guidelines.
As a member or agent of IATA, you’ll enjoy certain privileges like:
Get invited to several global events and conferences organized by IATA and network with leading global travel agents and tour operators.
As travel agents, IATA will mentor and train you along with the tips and tricks of the trade. All in order for you to expand and grow faster.
The Association of Domestic Tour Operators is an organization, which aims to strengthen domestic tourism and improve customer experiences by bringing together all leading domestic tour operators.
Get accreditation with the ADTOI Logo, certificate and ID card, which improves accountability and transparency as a tour operator
Have a unique travel package or product? You can showcase it to other travel agents, tour operators and outbound operators of other countries.
One of the key advantages of being a member of ADTOI is that you can raise issues and grievances with other tour operators or policies of certain states and governments.
All you’ve got to do is to fill up this form. Here’s a link
Get access to key data, insights and referrals from other tour operators and travel agencies through ADTOI’s website.
Be a part of exclusive educational tours to various destinations around India
Rub shoulders with the captains of the industry and other leading travel agents and tour operators in India to network and collaborate for your business
The Indian Association of Tour Operators is the National Apex Body of the tourism Industry. Its role is critical when it comes to liaising with international travel bodies and associations. It also plays a major part in dealing with the government on crucial issues in the tourism sector.
Build your brand in the global market thanks to the wide and robust network of the association.
Get foreign affiliations with other tourism bodies and boards.
Have differences or disputes with fellow members or government bodies? The association helps to mediate and find a common ground to voice your concerns.
This association protects you from unfair trade practices and activities of foreign tour operators. Also, learn rules and regulations of tour operators in India as well as abroad
You can download a form on the website.
Experience in-depth understanding of the overseas market by foreign educational tours with various airlines and Government of India
It awards for excellence in tourism-related activities so that you can set an example for other tour operators and new benchmarks
Want to learn or pursue further studies related to travel and tourism? IATO facilitates by providing you with educational resources and colleges.
ATOAI or the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India is an association, which was formed to encourage and discover the vast potential for adventure tourism in India. It is trying to build brand India in the field of adventure sports and tourism. If you’re an adventure tour operator or into adventure tourism then this organisation can be extremely handy.
India ranks pretty low when it comes to adventure tourism. If you have concerns or issues to raise, ATOAI is the platform to do it.
With other avid adventure tour operators, be part of a community that has lots to offer in terms of learning and networking
Get access to news, case studies, industry insights and success stories. Plus, get first-hand info and education on important issues in adventure tourism like first-aid and CPR
Get a chance to participate in overseas roadshows
Take part in annual convention and seminars to meet the old and new in the business of adventure tourism and get to learn from their journey
Get sent to various adventure tours to understand, brainstorm and collaborate with other verticals of adventure tourism.
You already know that India is a country with many states and union territories. Hence, it is not feasible for the central government to look into the intricacies of tourism policies and practices in every state. Hence, there are state tourism boards to look into these matters and help promote each state for its unique offering. These include, providing the right infrastructure, boosting the marketing efforts and strengthening tourism bodies and facilities in the state.
What About Niche Tourism?
Niche tourism requires in-depth expertise or experience in certain forms of tourism like wildlife safaris, cycling tours or rafting excursions. In recent years, plenty of bodies have been formed to play an active role as well as grow this form of tourism. We’ve listed a few examples:
Wildlife tourism has several repercussions on the environment and ecology. That’s why the government has toughened laws in the Wildlife Act of 1973 in recent years. The Forest Department of various states have become more vigilant and have their own set of rules and regulations for tour operators depending on the flora and fauna of the state. Make sure you refer to the forest department of your state to check the rules or guidelines for tour operators.
Scuba diving is growing rapidly in India. If you have dreams to start your very own scuba diving business, then you’ll need permissions from the state tourism department. For example, in a state like Goa, you’ll need accreditation from the National Institute of Watersports. The diving instructors should be certified by PADI or SSI, the two main global bodies for scuba diving. Andaman and Nicobar Islands are famous for watersports and tourism. That’s why there are specific guidelines for scuba diving tour operators in Andaman. There lies a huge problem too as different states have varied policies, which are manipulated and twisted by various illegal players who want a piece of the pie.
Lately, tourists in India have complained about the substandard quality of tourist guides. They either provide the wrong information or leave an unpleasant experience for tourists who have spent their hard-earned money, time and effort.
To solve this problem, the Ministry of Tourism has given a clear directive to ASI (Archeological Survey of India) licensed guides. As per the new guidelines and Supreme Court ruling, ASI approved guides will have to undergo training and tests to be a qualified tourist guide. This will be applicable to 360 monuments all around India. Tourist guides without a valid ASI license will not be allowed to operate in these monuments.
Ensuring you read, revise and practice these rules and regulations can reduce your focus on your business goals. That’s where we come in. Vacation Labs has helped more than 200 tour operators and travel companies go online from scratch. We’ve helped them at every stage of setting up their business online. Have any queries regarding starting your own online travel company or anything else, contact us today and we’ll guide you from start to finish.