Following merger after merger, the UK tourism sector is now dominated by enormous companies, who continue to buy up rivals (sometimes only to shut them down) and take ever greater shares of the market. As of 2011, the three biggest three companies alone controlled more than half of all package holidays
; they create holidays in destinations across the globe and each even has their own airline – meaning 100 percent of travellers’ holiday cash stays within the company.
But is this really what consumers want? And can a global behemoth really be better than a small, specialised tour operator?
In 2004, Responsible Travel carried out a survey to find out what UK travellers though about mass tourism, and the results were clear. 76 percent of people reported that they didn’t like the way mass tourism damages the local environment and culture, with 52 percent of people feeling that mass market tour operators didn't offer the most interesting holidays.
There are obvious advantages of travelling with a smaller, more specialist operator: the traveller will usually receive a more personal service from smaller operators who have a real passion for the destination. In addition, these operators are experts on their destination and can give detailed (often firsthand) advice; several of the operators either grew up in or have since moved to their destination of choice, meaning they know it far more intimately than a global travel company. And aside from this, specialist operators also tend to care more about people and the environment, and strive to minimise the negative impact from their holidays.
This is one of the reasons why Responsible Travel has 400 smaller specialist tour operators on our site, making it the first place to look for a more interesting and authentic holiday that minimises impacts on the environment and culture.
Our Holiday Helpdesk team know that every holiday is special. They are experts at matching up specialist operators with each traveller’s needs – so give them a call or send them an email and they’ll get back to you with their top trip recommendations. Some of our specialist operators are small and hard to find online – so our Helpdesk can connect you with the holiday companies that would otherwise take a long time to track down.