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Tour agencies vs tour operators in Guyana

Tour agencies vs tour operators in Guyana

by jeffreyFebruary 6, 2013
This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Guyana


Here’s something you need to know: the difference between tour agents and tour operators.

Guyana is no stranger to the tourism agency. Although, compared to other countries, it has a long way to go tourism-wise, there are still plenty of Guyanese trying to get a piece of those highly valued $, £, and €. So, to state what shouldn’t need to be said for the sake of being thorough:

  • A tour operator: owns the boats, planes, boats etc. and employs the guides. They have their own offices and market tours themselves.
  • A tour agent: books you on an aforementioned tour and tacks on a hefty commission. In Guyana, it will likely be unclear what you’re booking unless you ask. After all, it’s in the middleman’s best interest to keep it secret that they can be bypassed.

At the end of the day, you’ll find dozens of possible leads for tours. Here’s the down and dirty for flights to Kaieteur Falls:

  • Good choices: owner/operators of aircraft — the best rule of thumb is that if they’re trying to sell you a flight to Kaieteur Falls, try to find an image of a plane with their name on it.
    • Air Services Limited: operates a fleet of 24 planes, mostly dedicated to domestic flights to interior Guyana, but they do some tours.


    • Trans Guyana Airways/Evergreen Adventures: operates a fleet of 8 planes with scheduled service to interior Guyana. Owned by Correia Group of Companies which includes Evergreen Adventures (a tour company branch) and Baganara Island Resort.


    • Roraima Airways: owns a fleet of 3 planes which are dedicated to tourism and private charters. The Roraima Group of Companies is another large “conglomerate” that owns two hotels in Georgetown:  Duke Lodge and Residence Inn. They also own ArrowPoint Nature Resort, operate the only lounge at Cheddai Jeggan airport and handle much of the ground services at the airport (baggage, fuel, gate attendants etc..)



    • Air Guyana: Operates 2 Cessna Caravan planes (one looks brand new, too!) with charter flights to interior Guyana and adjacent countries. I can’t confirm that the tours they advertise to Kaieteur Falls are on their aircraft or if they try to sub it out, but, they do, in fact, own their own airplanes. Link to site here.


From what I can tell, booking through ANY of the following companies to Kaieteur Falls will result in a middleman/agent scenario:

  • Kanuku Tours
  • Rainforest Tours
  • Wilderness Explorers
  • Wonderland Tours


Series Navigation<< Impressions of Georgetown, GuyanaAir Services Limited Review >>
About The Author
  • Michael McCrystal

    This series reflects a common misunderstanding about the travel business generally and in Guyana specifically. It’s a misdirected critique that often comes up in Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana… South America’s three most expensive destinations. The high costs here leave many people wondering who’s getting filthy rich.

    Every business operates to make a profit, tour “agencies” (to use your term) are no different. Guyana’s tour agencies are not unique – or corrupt – for having a profit motive. They may be subject to critique on other grounds, but markups are not condemnable in and of themselves.

    Your iPhone, your car, your groceries, your t-shirt, your stay at a hotel, your can of cocacola: they’re all marked up by middlemen… all of whom play some role in delivering a product to meet a market demand. Companies in the hospitality industry are, naturally, no different.

    Worldwide, a typical tour company might clear a 15-25% margin on a booking. That’s well established and no secret. Backpacker services and ultra-luxury amenities may fall above or below average, of course. Margins for ticketing 3rd party services will usually have low- to no- profit, since market transparency for those services prevent extravagant margins. (Kaieteur day trips fall into this category). Tour agencies usually make those low-yield bookings hoping to access clients who will want additional, profitable services.

    More complicated tours connecting multiple services and amenities require time and effort to plan and support, and those are the kinds of tours that end up with standard markups. Any number of typical business considerations (volume, promotional incentives, competitive response, subsidy, seasonality, product scarcity, etc etc) have an effect.

    Bottom line, it’s a gross oversimplification to assume tour agencies simply re-sell another person’s product and clear an unearned profit for the effort. It doesn’t work that way.

    When someone patronizes a tour agency, they are unlikely to see a) the due diligence and research & development that led to a tour’s design and operation, b) the significant investments made to market the destination in a brutally competitive international marketplace; c) (hopefully) the various contingencies put in place to handle weather, health, logistical, or other types of emergencies. In Guyana, some tour operators expend non-trivial resources to help build tourism infrastructure in partnership with local communities so that visitors have places to eat and sleep (CATS, which runs the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway and Atta Lodge is a stellar example. See http://wilderness-explorers.com/community )

    All these efforts are required to build a tourism industry in a remote, undeveloped country like Guyana… and they all cost money. Some countries benefit from massive government investment in international tourism marketing and infrastructure and development. Guyana – a poor country – is able to make only modest expenditures in this regard, leaving the private sector to invest in developing and promoting the destination.

    Do some tour agencies deliver better service than others? Do some fall down on the job? Do some go the extra mile while others are content to deliver mediocre (or worse) value for money? Do some exploit the market while others serve as market-makers? Just like every other business on the planet, yes.

    Savvy travelers know that sometimes it’s worth going the DIY route and at other times, it’s worth paying for professional assistance to handle a complicated job.

    • Michael,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to write this detailed comment.

      I think you’re completely correct–middlemen often offer very valuable services that shouldn’t be overlooked.

      In the case of our specific experience in Guyana, we were getting frustrated on not understanding who was the middleman and who was the actual operator (from our computers in the US). I wrote this post in an effort to educate and inform possible tourists to the country. When traveling to a place like Guyana for a very short time (like our 3 days, which was too short) it helps to do as much research as possible so that you can better make an informed decision once you’re on the ground so as to maximize your time there.

      In the case of your analogy, if 10 different companies are trying to sell me “cola,” I’ll want to do my research to find out if that cola is Coca-Cola, Pepsi, RC Cola or another brand. It might very well make sense for me to pay more and purchase the cola from a reseller, even if it is more expensive – but it does help to know what you’re getting before you buy it. In other cases, if I find that most resellers have Coca-Cola, I might go directly to the company to make my purchase.

      As far as the specific “tour operators” vs “tour agencies” in Guyana go, many agencies offer services like having an office in downtown Georgetown (purchasing our ticket directly from Air Services Limited saved us money but did require an extra taxi trip to the airport), pickups/dropoffs from your hotel and knowledgeable guides that will be with you from start to finish. All this said, it is difficult to sift through the swathe of companies trying to fight for your tourism dollars. This post was the result of our doing research and reporting our findings once we traced it all back to the source.

      That said, take what we’ve written with a grain of salt. Use it for informational purposes only and do your own due diligence to determine which route is best for you.

      Thanks again for reading!