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Jargon buster

This jargon buster aims to give simple explanations of some frequently used words, phrases and acronyms used in travel distribution. It’s not an exhaustive list, so if you’ve heard a word, phrase or acronym you don't know, please get in touch with your Industry Relationship Manager (IRM)


ABTA - Association of British Travel Agents. Visit the ABTA website to find out more

Accessible - Useable by all people. Whether a hotel, restaurant, or attraction can by enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, regardless of physical or other limitations

ACTA - Association of Canadian Travel Agencies; a national member-based trade association that represents the retail travel sector of Canada’s tourism industry. Find out more about ACTA on their website

Aggregator - A website that searches for deals across multiple websites and shows consumers the results in one place

Airline vacation arm – The holiday package arm of major airlines

Allocation - A pre-negotiated number of seats/rooms/vehicles held by a wholesaler or inbound tour operator for sale 

ASTA – The American Society of Travel Advisors is the world's largest association of travel professionals. Their members include travel advisors and the companies whose products they sell such as tours, cruises, hotels, car rentals, etc. They are the leading advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public in the USA. Visit the ASTA website to discover more

Business tourism - Incorporates visitors travelling for conventions, conferences, seminars, workshops, symposiums, incentives, exhibitions, and special events. Visit our business preparation page to find out more about business tourism and pricing

B2B – Business to business 

B2B2C – Business to business to consumer.

B2C – Business to consumer (i.e. end client/visitor).

Buyers – The person working for or on behalf of the DMC, tour operator etc, who sources and negotiates the contract to buy from the individual tourism supplier

Client – The visitor coming on holiday or a tour operator who is selling to the end visitor

Commission  The fee paid to intermediaries for them to market, distribute and sell your product. You can find out more about pricing in our business preparation section

Consumer – Also known as the customer, traveller, visitor or client

Distributer Also known as travel trade or intermediaries through whom businesses can sell their bookable product to other businesses in the travel distribution system or to the end consumer. Find out more about distributers in our How travel trade can benefit your business section

Distribution (channel) – The channels or places through which a consumer may purchase your product 

Distribution online –  Using the internet and web portals to distribute or promote your product to consumers 

DMC –  Destination Management Company. Find out more in our How travel trade can benefit your business section

DMO –  Destination Management Organisation is a regional collaborative group of businesses looking after the promotion of a particular region and its businesses including accommodation providers, restaurants, attractions, events, tours, etc. The primary function is to attracts visitors to the destination and therefore enhance the local economy. Examples include VisitAberdeenshire, South of Scotland Destination Alliance and Visit Moray Speyside

ETOA European Tour Operator Association. The trade association for tour operators and suppliers in European destinations, from global brands to local independent businesses. Discover more on the ETOA website

Educational visits –  Hosted trips which provide the opportunity to experience your product first-hand and improve product and destination knowledge 

FAM – Familiarisation trip/tour for buyers/contractors or a tour operators’ sales team prior to selling Scotland

Fully independent travellers (FIT) – also known as ‘free independent traveller’, 'foreign independent traveller’ or ‘frequent independent traveller’. These travellers usually travel on their own; in couples; or in smaller groups of friends or family. These travellers tend to plan their own itineraries and book aspects of their holiday themselves. There are travel agents who now specialise in providing solutions for these travellers.

FOC – Free of charge 

Gross rate – The price that consumers pay for your product i.e. the cost plus your commission. Also known as retail rate, rack rate or door rate 

Group travel an organised, multi-day holiday that is pre-booked where consumers meet a group of other travellers on the same holiday. Groups can range in size from a few people up to coaches of 50 or more.  

Group rate – discounted rates for multiple rooms booked at a time

Free sell – A room, seat or vehicle provided by an operator to a wholesaler or inbound tour operator in unrestricted quantities until otherwise indicated, so a booking may be confirmed immediately to a client. This arrangement involves reporting from supplier and operator, as well as payment monthly

IATA – International Air Transport Association. More information can be found on the IATA website

Inbound tourism – International tourist traffic coming into a country. Also referred to as export tourism  

Inbound tour operator – A tour operator based in a specific destination country who plans itineraries and organises travel arrangements or conducts tours for travellers based elsewhere

Incentive travel – Incentive travel is a trip offered as a prize or reward, for top performing employees or sales agents 

Intermediary – Anyone who acts as a link in the chain of distribution between a product and its customers. Travel agents, tour operators etc. are considered the intermediaries (distributors)

IPS – International Passenger Survey 

Itinerary – The planned route for a trip. This is what the travel trade professionals sell to their customers. It’s a pre-planned experience with where to go, when, and what to expect when you get there

Low season travel – Also called off-peak travel, certain destinations are less popular during different times of the year (think of a tropical island in the middle of the rainy season). Often, rates also drop during these times. Working with intermediaries can help deliver sales into quiet times for your business.

Luxury tour operator – These tour operators work with often high net worth individuals or customers who are looking for a luxury holiday for them or their family. Their travel plans may include private yachts, helicopters or exclusive, VIP experiences – the sky’s the limit.

Market segment – Identifying a market segment is an ideal way to make sure that your offering is being marketed to and attracting the right type of customers

MICE – Meetings, incentives, conferences, and events. Find out more in our How travel trade can benefit your business section

Net rate – The gross rate less the commission amount. The amount that you receive from the distributor

NTO –  National Tourist Organisation, such as VisitScotland or VisitBritain (sometimes referred to as VB)

Online booking system - An easy way for customers to book (or reserve) in real time an offering online and receive confirmation without having to go through an agent

Online travel agent (OTA) - Allows consumers to check live availability and pricing then book travel products in real time through the OTA website. An online travel agency, or OTA, is a website or mobile app that allows users to search for and book travel services such as flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and activities. The booking is made directly with the online travel agency but confirmed by the service provider, such as an airline or a hotel. Find out more in our How travel trade can benefit your business section

Outbound tourism - Residents travelling out of their country to an international destination 

PAX – Pax is travel industry jargon that refers to the number of passengers i.e. 2 pax. It also extends to the number of guests, diners or participants

The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018 this provides important protection for consumers who book a package holiday. It is important for Scottish tourism businesses to be aware of these arrangements and ensure they comply when selling to European travellers

Packages – An easy and popular way to travel is by buying packages. These often include accommodation, travel and some meals

Rack rate – Standard daily rate established for hotel rooms. This rate is typically public, printed on hotel brochures and listed on websites. 

Responsible tourism – Ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation, and conservation. Visit our Responsible tourism section to find out more

Retail travel agent – These allow travellers to book travel products either through a wholesaler, a tour operator, or direct with the supplier. Traditional tour operators and high street travel agents may also have an online travel booking system, making them similar to an OTA. Find out more in our How travel trade can benefit your business section

SDMA  The Scottish Destination Management Association is the officially recognised and constituted association for Scottish-based tour operators and destination management companies. Visit the SDMA website to find out more

Seasonal pricing  Different price levels throughout the year to cover low and high seasons. These are usually the same date periods each year and apply for school holidays, public holidays or for local events where the dates vary each year

Single supplement – A single supplement is a surcharge applied to a single person staying in a room usually intended for two or more people

Suppliers – Tourism businesses who sell to buyers (DMCs or tour operators). They sell B2B (Business to Business).  

Tour operator – A business specialising in developing holiday programs and itineraries for direct sales to end clients or to travel agent networks. Tour operators can be generalists offering tour packages published in catalogues and sold through travel agents, or they can be and FIT tour operator selling tours directly to the end client

Travel agent / travel advisor – A travel agent or travel advisor is a professional travel consultant with the resources, connections and expertise to book a package holiday. They have a strong and influential role in the choice of holiday destination their clients choose. They negotiate commission, working directly with DMCs, tour operators and wholesalers, and occasionally booking with an accommodation or activity provider directly. In some markets, travel agents may act purely as resellers, selling programmes from larger tour operators. Find out more in our How travel trade can benefit your business section

Trade shows – Events held both in Scotland and overseas which act as a platform for suppliers to meet with buyers 

Travel trade – A collective term for the agents that make up the distribution system, including tour operators, wholesalers, retail, and online agents. Often referred to as Intermediaries 

UKInbound UKInbound is a trade association that represents the interests of the UK’s inbound tourism sector. UKInbound provide opportunities for its membership to grow and develop via a programme of events designed to connect buyers and suppliers in the travel trade. For more information, visit the UKInbound website

USTOA – The United States Tour Operators Association; an organisation representing the interests of tour operators across the United States. USTOA Active members represent some of the top names in travel and tourism, and account for a sizeable portion of the tour operator market in North America. Discover more on the USTOA website

Vertically Integrated Tourism Group Tourism businesses that own companies across all travel trade categories, e.g. packaging and selling Scotland as tour operators, travel agents, OTAs and Wholesalers. These businesses tend to incorporate a variety of subsidiaries that sell through all available routes to market

Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) – Visitors whose main purpose is to visit with friends and relatives 

Wholesaler – They contract tourism product. They are B2B and act as a silent partner. They will sell these products via travel agents, tour operators, coach operators and other third parties 


Many travel trade events have their own anagram, too. For example: GEM (Global European Marketplace), WTM (World Travel market). Visit our travel trade events and exhibitions page to find out more

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