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In R Tours, I was assigned in the Inbound Department and I learned a lot from there. One of the main duties in the department is the inbound operation. The inbound operation consists of several tasks. First to create interesting and excellent tour packages, then, promote them locally and internationally and finally handling them. We may receive request or booking by telephone, fax, letter or email from individuals, local and international groups.
Most of the time a normal booking will have information on the type of tour package chosen, the length of stay, the number of people and additional services required such as a buffet set up instead of an a la carte menu or providing the welcome drink in the airport instead of the hotel. Normally we reply by thanking the person or the foreign company involves and we include all the necessary information such as the detailed itinerary, the cost of the tour and most important our confirmation for handling the tour. Then we will wait to get a confirmation from them before starting to make all arrangements and preparations.
The confirmation includes the date and time of arrival, the flight number if they are arriving by airplane, names plus passport numbers of clients and the rooming list. It is only after receiving the confirmation that we begin to work on arranging and preparing the booking of hotels, restaurants, transportation vehicles, museum tickets and sometimes airlines tickets if they are intend to fly to the south of the country. We also, arrange the visas and prepare the travel insurance. We assign people who are going to take care of the group such as tour leader, tour guide and driver.
Then we prepare the reservation forms and we send them to our suppliers. The reservation form includes the services requested and the number of pax and sometimes more information according to the kind of supplier. In a case of a hotel for example, the reservation form will include extra information such as the date of checking in and out, the number and what type of room and type of payment. Suppliers may be hotel, resort, motel, museum, restaurant, theme park, car rental, motor-coach company, a marina, a diving center or anything else.
During peak season we have difficulties in getting the right accommodation or some other services that was mentioned in the tour package, in this kind of situation we, must think of an alternative and inform the client about the changes and finally when both of us agree we proceed with the arrangement. The next task is to handle the group from the first day to the last day. The most important rule with the western group is being punctual because they are used to it and they do not like to wait for anything or anybody even from their own group. Make sure everything goes according to the itinerary timing.
All the employees and suppliers involve must take this into consideration. In case of lateness they may complaint and even ask for refund for that particular service. All the time make sure that everything is ready in advance. For example, during the arrival day, the tour guide and the motor coach must be present at the airport at least one hour before the plane lands and provide the tour guide with a small board having the name of the group to make it easier for the group to find him. We need to monitor the group every single day and keep in touch with the tour leader.
All the international groups have their tour leader and building an excellent communication or relation with him or her is really important because the tour leader is the one in charge of the entire group and he or she plays a very important role to insure that the tour is conducted as planned. Carrying daily briefing with him or her helps to find out what happened the day before and if any change has to be done for the next day. In the department we need to carry meetings to resolve any kind of problem during the tour. I learned to build strong relation with our suppliers to minimize the problem and complications.
In the beginning I was facing many problems of getting what I wanted and it used to take days of negotiation before getting it. I realized that certain suppliers such as five star hotels or dine dining restaurants were not responding positively to our request because they were preferring to deal directly with the customers or with reputed tour operator company. According to their opinion, we were not qualified or capable of bringing much business and I was really disappointed by their discrimination and behavior but my personal and communication skills helped me to accomplish whatever I wanted from them.
It is sad to realize that they are used to work this way, they don’t easily cooperate with small companies and I needed to win their trust. Finally they decided to really do business with me and everything was working smoothly after that. I think and believe that these hotels or any other suppliers should cooperate and build a better relationship with the small tour operators in order to benefit from each other. I definitely agree that we were not in the same level as those large tour operators such as Z Tours but we proved to these hotels income as well.
However, I was pleased that after many months of hard work, we were able to increase the number of bookings with them month after month. During my time spent in R Tours, I learned to better understand the procedure of handling tour packages. Now I am more confident of myself and well prepared due to all the experience that I had acquired while working there. I would like to conclude by saying that inbound operation is about using your capabilities, trying your strength in all the different tasks involves and be able to solve any problem happening during the tour by relating to your learning experience at the work place.