Incoming agencies in incentive tourism: heart of the group tourism business.


Incoming agencies, also called local agencies or DMC (Destination Management Company) are at the heart of the global tourism business. They are called “receptive” because they are located in the country they sell. They know their country and its assets perfectly, thus enabling them to build the best tour adapted to the customer.

1. The receptive sector: the first link in the chain of tourism stakeholders

The global economic context, with the evolution of the Internet and new technologies, is changing the practices of tourists regarding the organization of their trips. It is said that the receptives are the first link in the chain of tourism actors since they are at the base of the conception, the organization of the tour, the trip, the stay and its sale via tour operators and travel agencies.

Place of the incoming agency in the distribution chain

However, trends are changing. Bridges” tend to disappear as self-sustaining tourism emmerges1.

From now on, the customer can exchange directly with the local agency (incoming agency) of the country or place he wants to visit. Indeed, when he does not know the envisaged destination, he has the possibility to call upon an incoming agency. Previously only able to deal with travel agencies and tour operators, it can now directly design, organize, promote and sell its trip to the customer.

2. Missions of the incoming agency

Briefly, the primary function of a receptionist is to receive travelers, to take care of them throughout their stay once they are on the premises, and also to direct them towards tourist services, which he himself will have set up via his local partners. Today it is associated with a tour operator who designs tourist packages in the territory where the receptive is based and then sells them to its partners (foreign tour operators, travel agencies) or directly to its customers. They develop their own address book, make their communication on the web or at tourism fairs.

Incoming agencies are therefore becoming more and more involved in the tours/stays/trips they offer. To sum up, the incoming agency takes care of the design of the tour, its organization, assistance to travelers, the smooth running of the stay and the reception of its tourists. Incoming agencies are actually established in the country. As a result, they know their territory inside out, and continually monitor and test the products and services (hotels, restaurants, excursions, etc.) that they offer. Moreover, because the agencies are “on the spot”, they help to reinforce the security of the client, who has arrived in a country that is unknown to him. To achieve this, the agency must listen carefully to its clients in order to meet their expectations and must maintain its vigilance towards its service providers in order to obtain the best service.

3. Significant developments for incoming agencies

3.1 Changing the route for the organization of a trip

As we have seen in the previous article, the rise of the Internet has led to a disintermediation of the tourism players. In the diagrams below, we can see the evolution of the impact of incoming agencies in relation to the other players.

Chain of realization of a tourist circuit before (see 2)

It is clear that the incoming agency is at the center of the other players in the tourism chain on the one hand and the service providers on the other. However, as mentioned previously, the client takes a greater part in the travel process. Thus, we are witnessing an evolution, well described in the following diagram. The red arrow in the diagram, which shows the direct link between the travel agency and the incoming agency, without necessarily going through the tour operator, can therefore also be applicable to the customer.

Chain for the realisation of a tourist circuit at the moment

3.2. Receptive people evolve from relational actors to propositional actors.

The function of the incoming agency was only to welcome and advise clients once they were on site. Indeed, a few years ago, the incoming agent waited for his client on arrival with a sign bearing his name, and then took him to his accommodation. He would inform him on his arrival and facilitate his client’s stay. He was only a relational actor.

Today, it is evolving towards new missions such as the creation of circuits. From then on, the incoming agent becomes a propositional actor because he coordinates a team and different service providers with whom he works within the country/location in which the agency is located. Moreover, trends are changing: successive financial crises, the power of the Internet and the emergence of many agencies offering very low prices have changed consumer habits. This context has therefore enabled incoming agencies to bounce back and attract customers without going through all the intermediaries we know (travel agencies and tour operators). This phenomenon thus contributes to the growth of these local agencies because they negotiate with customers via the Internet.

As a result, the services offered by incoming agencies have upset the entire scale of tourism players. They design programs that correspond to the wishes of travelers, they take care of booking hotels, restaurants, guides, transport and even shows. Finally, they transmit the necessary information to the client about the place visited to ensure the smooth running of the stay. All these services mean that the incoming agency takes care of everything: it thus brings together the professions of the tour operator and the travel agency. In this way, it can be said that it has established itself as a real propositional actor.

We are witnessing an upscaling of incoming agencies, particularly in the group sector. To accompany these developments, incoming agencies are equipping themselves with high-performance digital tools such as Ezus (ex Esus). We will soon be seeing the notion of tailor-made travel, which is driving DMC to develop digital solutions that are themselves tailor-made.

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  1. Institut numérique. L’hospitalité dans le tourisme et la place de l’hospitalité dans une prestation touristique sur mesure, 2013 [en ligne].
  2. Institut Numérique, Tourisme sur mesure et demande d’hospitalité, 2013
  3. Institut Numérique, Tourisme sur mesure et demande d’hospitalité, 2013

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