Tourism Industry Terms: Receptive Operator
"When I told a DMO friend I was going to write this as a column, he said he was going to send it to all his partners because it is confusing. Whoever decided to call two different jobs the same name?" —Sally Berry
One of the most confusing tourism industry terms is Receptive Operator. It actually is the same word used for two completely different types of jobs. So, if you have been confused about who those people are and what they do, then this is for you.
"Receptive Operator" Version No. 1
This person is a business owner who lives within your destination. They are very knowledgeable about the area, know the best routes from one attraction to the next, and are full of information about the history and culture of the area. They know stories and fun facts and can answer questions that customers might have.
A receptive operator's role is to help with group tours as a liaison and concierge to the destination. They might provide step on services and spend a day with the group, or set up a special itinerary for a group that a tour operator wouldn't be able to do on their own. These companies are also known as Destination Management companies.
Receptive operators in this instance are usually well-connected within their local tourism community and work closely with the DMO, local hotels and attractions.
This type of receptive operator serves an important role that the Destination Management Organization (DMO) cannot provide. They can put together a day in the destination with the best stops and they do not have to worry about representing all the partners. They can also buy and sell services and tickets, which most DMOs cannot do. Having at least one receptive in your region is a key to success in the group market. She and her team will be providing services that bring a destination together as a sellable package.
"Receptive Operator" Version No. 2
This receptive operator works as a liaison and booking agent in the international market. I have seen many presentations on receptive operators and the complex buying chain that can exist between someone that wants to travel from another country to the United States on holiday. There have typically been many steps and receptive operators are key. Think of this receptive operator as the link between the travel agency selling the tour of the U.S and all the elements of the tour based in the U.S.
The role of receptive operators has changed as online booking has become easier and more popular. Receptive operators used to have many tried-and-true routes that sold well year after year. Now that people can book those types of trips online, receptive operators are successful when they add in new and lesser-known destinations or can offer special experiences that the public can't easily find. As the industry newsletter Inbound recently reported, there is both consolidation of some of these companies, as well as new companies that provide service to niche markets.
Where to Find Receptive Operators
Receptive operators run U.S.-based offices and their customers are travel agencies and tour companies based in other countries. They can specialize in specific countries or work with travel agencies in many countries. Receptive operator offices are often staffed with multilingual speakers and young people that have moved to the U.S. from another country.
If you are a destination, a hotel or an attraction interested in international visitors, you will want to meet with receptive operators. You can travel to their offices or to tradeshows like IPW, an RTO Summit or ITTA. Most receptive operators are based in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami or Orlando since those are also major gateway cities.
These two business models are completely different and perform very different roles in our industry. Why they have the same name is beyond me. But both types of receptive operators serve the same role in selling your attraction and destination, so make sure you have some of each in your database and at your fingertips!
I put together a list of the top 25 terms every tourism pro should know a few years ago that can be downloaded as a free PDF.
Written by Sally Davis Berry.
This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Sally Davis Berry.
If you'd like to receive more group travel content like this, sign up for our complimentary magazine and eDaily.