Understanding travel distribution

What is travel distribution?

Travel distribution refers to the methods through which tourism products are made available to customers. There are two primary avenues for selling your tourism product: direct sales, accomplished through your own marketing and sales efforts, and indirect sales facilitated by third-party entities known as travel distributors. These distributors act as intermediaries, distributing or reselling your product to their customer base.

Travel distributors encompass a diverse array of entities, including:

  • Retail Travel Agents
  • Wholesalers
  • Inbound Tour Operators (ITOs)
  • Online Travel Agents (OTAs)
  • Visitor Information Centres
  • Local tour operators
  • Other establishments such as large hotels offering concierge or tour booking services

Benefits of working with travel distributors?

Working with travel distributors offers a range of advantages for tourism businesses. These distributors have access to customer segments that may be challenging to reach independently. By forging partnerships with these distribution partners, you can effectively broaden the reach of your product.

Travel distributors earn commissions by selling tourism products and services. Their primary objective is to generate sales on your behalf. Establishing a partnership often involves a contractual agreement where you agree to terms and provide attractive rates, which the distributor can mark up to cover its own sales-related costs.

Working with travel distributors can provide the following benefits:

Expand your global reach: Distributors can help you tap into international markets, reaching customers around the world.

Diversify your market portfolio: By partnering with various distributors, you can diversify your customer base and reduce reliance on a single market.

Localized services: Distributors can sell your product in the local language, offering valuable advice and insights to international customers.

Year-round sales: Distributors can assist in selling your product or service consistently throughout the year, filling gaps in occupancy, especially during mid-week or weekends.

While tourism operators can generate their own sales, the constraints of time, resources, and budget often make it more practical to work with specialised travel distributors that have larger marketing budgets and broader customer outreach capabilities.

Types of travel distributors

There are a range of travel distributors that you can establish partnerships with via agreements or contracts. These distributors include:


Local Tour Operators

Retail Travel Agents

Visitor Information Centres

Online Travel Agents


Inbound Tour Operators

Understanding this intricate network of the distribution system and the diverse roles fulfilled by various types of distributors can be challenging. Therefore, gaining a comprehensive understanding of this system is crucial before making the decision to engage in the travel distribution industry.

Frequently Asked Questions


How commissions work

How to get started selling your product through travel distributors

How to become travel trade ready

Opportunities for your business as a travel trade ready operator

What to do if you already have contracts with travel distributors