How Friendly Is Your City for Tour Operators?

Check out this insightful post, written by someone who's participated in Fire Starter Brands outreach programs.  Well done, Sarah!

While it may seem most destinations are equipped for tour operators, there are many needs of a tour operator that overlooked. Winning group business from a tour operator entails offering low-rate rooms with continental breakfast. Hotels on the outskirts of a destination as far as 30 miles out will win group business from tour operators who are interested lowest group rate.

After recently attending American Bus Association Marketplace, a reverse trade show with appointments for CVBs, DMOs, restaurants and hotels to meet tour operators, I noticed several requirements that surfaced to win group tour and travel business. Check out this insider advice on making a destination friendly for tour operators:

Large-Seating Dining or Restaurants

As a city like Washington, DC becomes a haven for foodies, the transition to ambiance-centric restaurants eliminates the ability to accommodate tour and travel groups. A concern of many tour operators is dining options; “How will I feed my people?” they ask. Restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe and Phillips Seafood are focused on winning group business. However, if 20 different tour operators are visiting a destination during peak months, restaurants can be problematic. 

Solution: Focus on what the destination can currently offer. Convention center space, hotel ballrooms and hotel restaurants have the capacity to accommodate large groups. Hotels offering meal/dining service to tour operators opens the doors for potential future group business and increases F&B revenue when it would have been non-existent.


Free Parking

Tour operators are always looking to give the best rate to their clients (the group traveling). In larger cities parking and cost of parking can be problematic. Hotels that have space for motor-coach buses and offer free parking to tour operators are in the running to win their overnight group business. 

Solution: CVBs, take note of all the hotels with space for motor-coach parking and if it’s free. It’s unlikely a tour operator is using Google to search for accommodations with free parking, so providing helpful information like this helps to win group business. Talk to your hotels about potentially offering free or discounted parking to tour operators.


CVBs that are starting to focus or re-focus on promoting their destination as ideal for tour operators will need to start at square one, including those with large-seating for dining and parking availability. Most of all creating sample itineraries for different tours is the most important to demonstrating the benefit to tour operators.

Solution: The perfect place to start is determining the different tours that could be created such as an antiquing tour or a winery tour. Consider the uniqueness factor about your destination and if there’s a potential for a tour. Sample itineraries could be 3-day, 6-day, and night tours. 

Bring the tour operators the value of coming to the destination, and returning too. Ideas to keep in mind about working with tour operators is that once they become loyal to a product or hotel, it’s hard to “break in” to their market. Be persistent without being pushy and tell them how you’re product is more beneficial.