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Holidays are meant to be enjoyable and relaxing, but planning them is another matter, particularly if you are heading off to an area you have never been to before. If you are planning a holiday here in Africa with overseas visitors and want to show them as much as possible of your own country but are daunted at the thought of how exactly to go about doing the planning or choosing the best destinations, your best bet would be to employ the services of a professional tour operator or guide. Similarly, if your biggest dream is to tour Europe but you are restricted because of budget or time - or both – find a reputable tour operator who can assist you. These specialists know how to organize trips and tours of any duration, including booking hotels and additional mini-excursions, whilst getting you the best value for your money and time.
Tour operators specialize in planning tours with detailed itineraries, suitable for individuals, small or large groups of people. A tour typically combines a variety of services such as road, train, sea or air travel, accommodation and certain meals, and may include the services of a tour guide for the entire tour or certain parts of the tour. It goes without saying that tour operators mainly work in geographical areas with which they are familiar and knowledgeable. They know the best scenic, tourist and shopping sites, and are able to assure their clients of good quality hotels and accommodation, as well as recommending the best restaurants. They work with hotels, airlines and various other transport companies, and are able to secure the best pricing options from these companies. Guides are the people who accompany tourists on mini-excursions which may last for half a day, a complete day or a few days, and are able to provide interesting and knowledgeable information and guidance during the excursion. In London, for example, there are “Haunted London” walking tours which last for a couple of hours and which take the participants through areas of London which have gruesome histories. These tours take place at night and the guide is an expert in building up suspense and adding to the eeriness of the walks.
Tour operators offer advice as well as practical input. They are able to suggest destinations to tourists who know what they want - for instance a visit to Europe - but have no idea where to start and what to see. The tour operator will plan a suitable itinerary with the clients, taking into account factors such as financial availability, time constraints and specific interests. They are able to plan for mini-excursions led by experienced tour guides, if required, whilst leaving the majority of the holiday available for personal exploration, shopping and relaxation.
Many tour operators offer package holidays for groups of travelers, with set itineraries, departure and return dates and costs. This type of holiday is ideal for people who want to travel with others as part of a group, which often results in the added bonus of new friendships. Many tour operators offer their clients the additional peace of mind of knowing that, should something go wrong on the holiday, the tour operator will sort out the problem quickly and without additional cost to the client. Package tours are extremely popular with older travellers who welcome the added supervision offered by an experienced and knowledgeable tour guide, whilst still being very cost effective due to the economics of group bookings rather than individual travel. Tour guides enable travellers to visit new places in safety and are able to provide historical information and interesting facts which add interest to the tour, as well as ensuring that the tourists are able to visit the most scenic areas of any city, such as the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the Statue of Liberty in New York or Trafalgar Square in London. Many international travellers enjoy half-day guided excursions to Soweto in Johannesburg, and being given the opportunity to experience traditional food and the different communities of the area.
Tour operators and guides are very easy to find. They are often affiliated with or found through travel agencies, and advertise a wide range of travel destinations and options to suit any budget and desire. The larger tour operators have their own agencies which operate on a national or international basis, and offer the additional advantages of a multinational organisation. Tour operators may easily be found via the internet, as many now have their own websites. For those with, or even without, their own websites, search sites such as Uptasker will greatly aid in finding the right one for your needs. A useful factor on Uptasker’s site is the ability to find a tour operator or guide in your specific geographical area, particularly if you are looking for specialists to undertake local tours or provide additional “meet-and-greet” services from hotels or airports. Always check online ratings and customer reviews, where possible, as these will give you the best indication of customer satisfaction levels. Tour operators and guides can also be found easily through their own catalogues, or through advertisements in travel magazines, newspapers and the Yellow Pages. If possible, use word of mouth referrals from people you know and trust who have had favourable experiences with any particular tour operator or guide.
Our busy daily lives make the relaxation and adventure of a holiday that much more special. Not all of us want simple beach holidays at the same place every year. For those of us who yearn for adventure and the chance to travel and see more of the world, our best option is to use a tour operator who can do all the planning and organizing for us, to our exact specifications. For shorter and more personalised vacations, a tour under the auspices of a seasoned and experienced guide would be the perfect solution. For more tips, see our tours and guides articles.