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How can the travel trade help your business?

The travel trade is made up of a network of travel distributors (or intermediaries), who 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.


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.

The path back to Rackwick from the Old Man Of Hoy, Orkney

Why work with travel distributors?

Many visitors from international markets rely on the trusted advice of local travel advisors, tour operators and specialists when planning and booking their holiday. This is particularly true in long-haul markets.

Travel distributors work with multiple travel advisors across the globe and allow you to broaden your customer base. You can reach far more potential customers than your own website, or marketing budget, could deliver. Your product might be included individually or as part of a tailored package in brochures or distributed online to travel agents or direct to consumers. True international exposure for your product.

Travel distributors can market and sell your product, acting as an extension of your own marketing efforts, providing international exposure for your product.

Two people shake hands in front of a highland cow

How does it all work?

The travel distribution system varies from market to market but traditionally includes Destination Management Companies (DMCs), wholesalers, tour operators, travel advisors and retail travel agents, as well as OTAs.  

Many of these distributors take an online approach as well as offering their services from a retail shop front. Both online and offline travel trade work with the supply chain – working with each other as well as direct to consumers depending on where they sit in the supply chain.

Two people having a business meeting at VisitScotland Connect

What are the different channels available?

  • Destination Management Companies

    Destination Management Companies (DMCs), are UK (generally London) or Scottish based one-stop-shops for all travel products, catering to specific or multiple international markets. They do not sell directly to the consumer but work on a business-to-business basis, i.e. they sell to a travel agent or travel advisor.

    A DMC 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.

    When a travel agent or travel advisor purchases a product or package of products on behalf of a consumer, the DMC will coordinate the individual reservations, confirmations and payments. Some work with both leisure and business clients.

  • Wholesalers

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

    The wholesalers provide travel packages comprising two or more products supplied by different operators. Traditionally these packages are published in brochures and are distributed to retail travel agents to sell in their agencies or online. 

    They do not handle flights for their clients. The tour operator or agent would book these and 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. 


  • Tour Operators

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

    Tour operators might purchase products via a wholesaler or DMC, or contract directly from Scottish tourism businesses. In turn they 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. For example, experts in hiking trips, or specialists in certain areas of the world such as Great Britain & Ireland. Generalist tour operators sell different types of holidays in multiple destinations.

    Depending on the nature and size of a tour operator, they can have different departments looking after coach, group and FIT holidays, or specialise in special interest groups. 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

    Retail travel agents distribute travel 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, retail agencies may be operated by travel wholesalers, or may concentrate on particular market segments such as special interest or family travel.


  • Travel Advisors

    Travel advisors can be employed by a travel agency or supported by a Host Agency or Consortia. In particular across the long-haul markets (US, Canada & Australia), they play an influential role in the choice of holiday destination and tour programmes that customers choose to book.

    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.

    An area where travel advisors are particularly strong in is the luxury tourism segment. Luxury travel advisors tend to provide an end-the-end service for their clients. This includes packaging high-end accommodation and luxury, one-of-a-kind experiences in the destination of choice

  • Online Travel Agents (OTAs)

    OTAs specialise in selling products online. International travellers can purchase either a product or an entire holiday package from them online. That means your product offering will have been bundled with other companies’ products by the agent in order to sell a whole holiday experience. The agency will then coordinate the reservations on the consumers’ behalf.


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