Skip to main content

Travel agents, tour operators and the differences between the two

Date posted: 23.01.2020

When it comes to booking your holiday, there are a number of different companies you can use, from big name brands selling package holidays on the high street to smaller travel agents, operating online and on social media. If you prefer not to book package holidays, there are even more travel companies that allow you to book flights, accommodation and any other aspects of your holiday separately.

As consumers, it can sometimes be difficult to know who exactly you are booking with, who your money has gone to and what you are paying for when you book your holiday. Perhaps you booked your flights through a comparison site rather than directly through the airline or your local travel agent sold you a package holiday from a larger travel company.

What are your rights depending on how you book your holiday?

What protection are you entitled to?

And, most importantly

Who do you turn to if things go wrong?

Flight-inclusive package holidays sold by UK travel companies must, by law, be ATOL protected. This means that, if the travel company ceases trading, the ATOL scheme is able to refund you for any financial loss or, if you are abroad, provide assistance so you can continue your holiday.

When you purchase a package holiday, you can either book directly with the tour operator that created the holiday or via a travel agent, who sells the package holiday on behalf of the tour operator. Your ATOL protection could work in one of four ways:

  1. You book directly with a tour operator and your protection is provided by that tour operator
  2. You book a tour operator’s package holiday through a travel agent, who is not an ATOL holder, and your ATOL protection is provided by the tour operator
  3. You book a tour operator’s package holiday through a travel agent, who is an ATOL holder, and the ATOL protection is provided by the tour operator
  4. You book a tour operator’s package holiday through travel agent, who is an ATOL holder, and they choose to protect your holiday under their own ATOL

Tour operators, travel agents, consumers

Whoever provides your ATOL protection is responsible for managing the package holiday. This means that, if you have any issues before you fly or while you are abroad, they should be able to assist. If the travel company providing your ATOL protection ceases trading, the ATOL scheme is able to refund you for any financial loss or, if you are abroad, provide assistance so you can continue your holiday.

Make sure you are aware of the company providing your ATOL protection. In the case of Thomas Cook, a number of holidaymakers booked through Thomas Cook’s travel agents but their package holiday was actually provided and protected by another company. When Thomas Cook ceased trading, their bookings were still valid.

Knowing who is providing your ATOL protection means you know who is responsible for your holiday and, if you know who is responsible, you’ll know where to turn if you need assistance.


View more news

Share