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The travel trade is made up of a network of travel distributors (or intermediaries). These are independent businesses from across the globe. They cover multiple channels through which a consumer can buy your product or experience.

Each play a specific role in the planning and booking cycle of your potential customers.

They are especially important if your business wants to target international markets.


1. Why work with travel distributors?

Travel distributors work with advisors from across the globe and allow you to broaden your customer base. This means that you can reach far more potential customers than with just your own website or marketing budget alone.

Advisors can take the form of local travel advisors, tour operators, or other specialists. When booking a holiday, many visitors from international markets rely on their trusted advice. This is particularly true in long-haul markets.

Travel distributors can:

  • market and sell your product (on its own or as part of a tailored package)
  • act as an extension of your own marketing efforts (to travel agents or directly to customers)
  • provide international exposure for your product

2. What can I sell through travel distributors?

You can sell any "bookable product" through a travel distributor, be it leisure, business, or special interest based. It could be a hotel room, a self-catering cottage, a private tour, food and drink, an attraction, transport, an activity, or a combination of any of these.

3. What are travel distribution channels?

Though it varies from market to market, travel distribution typically includes certain channels. Many of these channels take an online approach as well as offering their services from a retail shop front.

Examples of travel distribution channels

  • Destination management companies

    These are UK (generally London) or Scottish based one-stop-shops for all travel products.

    They cater to specific or multiple international markets, but do not sell directly to the consumer. Instead they work on a business-to-business basis, i.e. they sell to a travel agent or travel advisor.

    These companies can provide anything from a single coach to full itinerary planning and product selection. They can also bring accommodation, tours, transport and experiences together.

    They often create a full itinerary based on the request of the distributors they work with, or their knowledge of what is popular in a market.

    Does a travel agent or travel advisor purchase a product or package of products on behalf of a consumer? Then the destination management company will coordinate the individual reservations, confirmations, and payments.

    Some destination management companies work with both leisure and business clients.

  • Wholesalers

    Wholesalers are usually located overseas in the market they sell to. They link Scottish tourism businesses with travel advisors in their own market. But they do not sell directly to consumers. 

    They provide travel packages comprising two or more products supplied by different operators. Typically, they publish these packages in brochures and distribute them to retail travel agents.

    They do not handle flights for their clients. The tour operator or agent would book these. As a result the clients are protected by the ATOL scheme. Many wholesalers specialise in specific market segments such as adventure or the seniors market.

    Read more about ATOL on

  • Tour operators

    Tour operators are usually located overseas in the market they sell to. They distribute travel products direct to consumers via their website or shop-front location. Or they do so indirect via (their own or affiliated) travel agent networks.

    They might purchase products via a wholesaler or destination management company. Or they might contract directly from Scottish tourism businesses. They also package, market and sell their holiday programmes to consumers. 

    Many are trusted brands in the market. They sell to and are often specialists in certain activities or markets like hiking trips or the British Isles respectively. Generalist tour operators sell different types of holidays in multiple destinations.

    Most of them will have pre-made holiday packages ready to sell, but some will also provide tailor-made packages on request

  • Retail travel agents

    They distribute products to local consumers in their prominent shop-front locations and websites. 

    Traditionally, retail travel agents are the link between the wholesaler and consumers. Many belong to either a larger chain of travel agencies, or consortiums.

    They will usually sell a bundle of products as a holiday experience, and then coordinate the reservations. In some countries, they're run by travel wholesalers or may concentrate on certain market segments like family travel.


  • Travel advisors

    Travel advisors can be employed by a travel agency or supported by a host agency or consortia.

    They play an influential role in the choice of holiday destination and tour programmes that customers choose to book. This is particularly true across long-haul markets; US, Canada and Australia.

    Travel advisors tend to deliver a high level of customisation. They often create bespoke itineraries for their clients and are a trusted source in the market they sell to.

    Luxury tourism is a particular strong area for travel advisors, as they provide end-to-end service for their clients. This includes packaging high-end accommodation and experiences in the destination of choice.

  • Online travel agents

    These agencies allow visitors to purchase a product or an entire holiday package from them online. This means they'll have bundled your product offering with those of others to sell a whole holiday experience.

    The agency also coordinate the reservations of each product on the consumers’ behalf.

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