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Association of Independent Tour Operators: Purpose and responsibilities

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The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) plays an important role in the travel and tourism industry. However, many people are not familiar with what they do and how they do it. In this article, I will tell you all about AITO, their roles and responsibilities and why they are such an important organisation.

What is the Association of Independent Tour Operators?

The Association of Independent Tour Operators, abbreviated as AITO, is a travel industry trade group (like ABTA or ATOL) based in Britain. They launched in 1976.

The AITO represents around 120 independent tour operators across 200 countries.

These tour operators provide access to a huge range of activities including city breaks, safaris, luxury holidays and much more. The AITO is based in Twickenham, south-west London.

What does the Association of Independent Tour Operators do?

The AITO does a variety of things. Most importantly, you can be reassured that your holiday is well-protected thanks to the Association of Independent Tour Operators.

They assess every member financially as well as by their own business practice code before granting membership; this means that you are guaranteed clear and accurate descriptions of holidays as well as tour standards that are consistently monitored.

AITO & sustainability 

The Association of Independent Tour Operators are also big on sustainability. They have a Sustainable Tourism Committee who actively encourage members to be more sustainable in their businesses and the tours they offer.

This committee aims to:

  • Protect the Environment – its flora, fauna and landscapes
  • Respect local cultures – traditions, religions and built heritage
  • Benefit local communities – both economically and socially
  • Conserve natural resources – from office to destination
  • Minimise pollution – through noise, waste disposal and congestion

Sustainability is always a big talking point. With climate change an ever-present issue, it is important to ensure that any travelling we do as tourists is as kind to the planet as possible. The AITO reaches these goals by:

  • Establishing their own policies and involving our staff
  • Informing their clients about sustainable tourism and, where appropriate,
  • Encouraging them to participate
  • Working with their suppliers and partners to achieve sustainable goals and practices
  • Publicising good practice to encourage and spread awareness about sustainable tourism
Association of Independent Tour Operators

AITO reviews

There is a section on the Association of Independent Tour Operators website dedicated to impartial reviews from customers. By reading and sharing these, the AITO are able to hold their members to a high standard. And, travellers like you can see what people really think about the companies you can book with.

There is actually a two tier system when it comes to these reviews. Travellers can rate the holiday itself as well as the tour operator. This way, if you thought your tour operator was great but you hated something about the place itself, you’re able to say so clearly!

Arbitration services

The AITO actually offer arbitration services for disputes between members and holidaymakers. This is helpful in ensuring there is a middle man there in the rare occasion that there is some sort of issue over travel or holiday arrangements.

So if something goes wrong with your holiday and it is because of the tour operator, it’s helpful to know there is something you can do about it. Most people don’t know the ins and outs of business law, after all…

Financial security from the Association of Independent Tour Operators

One of the main reasons to book a tour or trip with an AITO member is the financial security that comes with doing so.

AITO members must comply with government regulations. This is consistently monitored by the Association of Independent Tour Operators themselves.

So if anything was to go wrong with a booking made through an AITO member, you’d be completely protected and well looked after in terms of the monetary side of things.

Association of Independent Tour Operators membership 

The AITO upholds high standards for and within the travel industry.

Tour operators wishing to become members must guarantee that have full consumer protection in place, which is one way that the AITO can continue to keep up these high standards. Members must also provide a sustainable approach to travel as well as a wide range of holidays.

AITO members are some of the best specialist tour operators in the UK. This is cyclical; they are members of the AITO because of how good they are at what they do, but they also good at what they do because of being part of the Association of Independent Tour Operators.

There are many benefits for members such as being part of a group of like-minded business people, attending exclusive networking events, having a voice in travel industry debates and much more.

The AITO provides training courses, legal advice and more as well as sending out regular newsletters for members.

You can find out if a tour company is registered with the Association of Independent Tour Operators by accessing the members page on their website.

Booking with an AITO member assures that you will receive excellent customer service, expert knowledge, and a holiday that comes with full financial protection.

How to contact AITO

Should you need to get in touch with the Association of Independent Tour Operators for any reason, you can do so via the following options:

Address: 133A St Margaret’s Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 1RG

Telephone: 020 8744 9280

Fax: 020 8744 3187


Why you should book with the Association of Independent Tour Operators

There are plenty of reasons to book your upcoming tour, trip or holiday with an AITO member company. Many of these have been discussed above. However, here are some more reasons to book through one of their members!

They go beyond Google

AITO members often have access to things that the general public don’t. While you could scour the internet and brochures for days on end, there are some deals and packages that you simply won’t be able to see or book.

Going through an AITO member company means that you could get something completely unique, or get your trip at a much better price. They have a great level of knowledge and expertise. After all, this is their job and they have a lot of experience in booking trips for keen holidaymakers. 

They are reactive 

If need be, you can count on AITO members to react to any change in circumstances and suggest alternatives where they can.

This is especially great when looking to travel during uncertain times, such as during a global pandemic.

No matter what happens, you can be sure of a great holiday that really works for you and what you want.

Great customer service 

This is all part and parcel of booking with a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators.

Thanks to consistent feedback, training and more, members always offer great customer service to holidaymakers. Customer satisfaction is absolutely key for the AITO.

Rest assured that booking a holiday will be a smooth, stress-free experience made even better by the friendly and passionate tour operators!

Examples of tours you can book with AITO members 

There are so many different trips on offer with AITO members. Here are a handful of examples to pique your interest!


five zebra grazing on grass field
Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen on

If you have always wanted to go on safari, consider booking through a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators.

There are various safari tour operators available. For example, Africa Collection offer tours to South Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.

Through them you can book tailor-made trips and escorted tours as well as planned self-drive itineraries. Be safe in the knowledge that you’ll get the perfect tour for you!


group of person walking in mountain
Photo by Eric Sanman on

When heading out to the Himalayan countries for trekking holidays, it is best to have an expert plan it with or for you.

AITO members like The Mountain Company are there to organise trips to Nepal, India and Bhutan. They will help organise your trip and itinerary, and can assist with charity trips too. They specialise in remote treks. These holidays are exciting but take a lot of planning, and it’s great to have somebody help with that side of things so you can focus on preparing yourself for all the walking…

Horse riding

person riding a horse
Photo by Antonio Prado on

Interested in a holiday that includes getting on a horse? Look no further than one of AITO members, Equestrian Escapes. They plan tailor-made equestrian holidays in Europe and the UK, for all ages and abilities. A group of knowledgable horse lovers themselves, this is a great example of how members of the Association of Independent Tour Operators can provide you with the expertise to have the best holiday imaginable – especially if it’s something a little more out of the ordinary!

Walking tours

man holdingwalking dog
Photo by Tom Verdoot on

For a trip that really suits you, there is an AITO member for everything. Kudu Travel, for example, organise holidays complete with guided cultural walking tours. These trips operate worldwide and include something for everyone. From birdwatching to food and wine tasting, there are different levels of walks. These range from relaxed to standard to moderately demanding. Walking tour holidays are an amazing way to explore a local area and make some incredible memories during your time away from home.

Association of Independent Tour Operators: To conclude

As you can see, the Association of Independent Tour Operators is a pretty important organisation within the travel and tourism industry. If you found this article interesting, you may also like to read more about what us a tour operator and the different types of travel agents.

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