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<font color='#0000FF'>I'm wondering about the pros & cons of tour operators. Normally I'm very relunctant to use one and in the past have always booked direct.
Other than the last minute deals is there a price advantage of using one? If it is not the price what other advantages can they bring?
I'm trying to sort out a trip which I'm giving to my mrs as a birthday present. The idea is to take a Rescue Diver course (and medic first aid or whatever it is called nowdays) in Gozo after Easter. I could book the flight and organise the rest with GozoAqua Sports. In terms of price it is very similar to the Aquatours offer.
So should I take the easy route and get Aquatours to do the rest or do a DIY? What advantages can I get from the tour operator.

Whilst I'm at it does anyone have any experience with Aquatours?
 

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Hi Chris, I've organised many private trips and several group trips and have always booked direct except on my last trip to the Red Sea, which I booked with Red Sea divers. The only advantage of booking through a tour operator, as far as I can see, is that it saves you some work (not much). The big adavantage of booking direct is that you have total control. YOU decide which liveaboard you want to go on or which hotel you stay at and which divecentre you use. You're not limited to the boats/hotels/divecentres the tour operator gets the best commission from. Others may have found other advantages of booking through a tour operator, though.
 

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<font color='#810541'>weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllllll I have to first admit to a personal interest in this subject as I work for a "large household name tour operator" in the UK.  Not a diving operator but a general holiday / tours operator.

In the UK there is a distinct advantage to booking a holiday with a package operator; package holidays are covered by the ATOL bond in case the company goes bust.  If you book independent elements - even if all booked through the same agent - you will not be covered.  See details from the CAA: ATOL bonding

There are other reasons why a package holiday wins out over independent travelling - in popular resorts the best hotels are committed years in advance to the big few holiday companies.  One company that operates in Europe has a stated policy of 'owning the beach' - by owning or contracting hotels in advance, they will make you book with them if you want a beach front hotel in a number of major resorts.

Of course that depends on your definition of 'best'; the package holiday operators cater for a particular sector of the market and if you like anything that does not generally fit with the core market you will possibly save money by going independent.  Before doing that, though, check with the big few operators as they are doing more specialist / niche packages as mainstream product now (e.g. Villas, Cruising).

Of course this does not answer the specific question on specialist diving operators - but the ATOL bonding DOES apply (so if you take John G's example of a liveaboard, if you book independently for flights and boat you have no ATOL protection if for example the boat sinks or if a flight delay means you miss the sailing, hence you have to claim on YOUR insurance as opposed to getting compensation from the operator).

These are only a couple of reasons and my personal view is that if you are going to a mainstream resort, save your cash and time by booking a package - if you want anything special (and that could be as simple as an odd duration, or flying back to a different airport from the departure airport) then go independent.  If I didn't get discounts on packages I would do the latter.

Andy
 
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