How to Find the Best Local Tour Operators in Sri Lanka

Detailed guide on how to select the best local tour operators in Sri Lanka to plan your holiday.

Summery Of The Article

The Internet is bridging the World as we know it. A swift development in communication and information technology has eliminated all the barriers to a connected world, bringing everyone together.

Travel and tourism industry is apparently one of the major industries that has been disrupted by this digitalisation and the overall globalization.

Let’s look at how you booked your holidays about 25 years ago, you must have to fully depend on local travel agents to plan your holiday. But nowadays, due to the advancement of information technology, you are able to plan your own holiday without any hassle after researching every single concern you have, through the internet and with the support of similar online communities.

However, there are still a good amount of pros and perks of getting the assistance of a tour operator, especially if you are planning to visit a country like Sri Lanka.

Are you thinking of traveling to Sri Lanka and need some credible assistance in booking and planning your holiday to be seamless? Your best bet is to go for a local tour operator in Sri Lanka. This will avoid the traditional cycle of the holiday reservation and you will be able to get a good price advantage.

Ex: – If a person from the United Kingdom prefers to visit Sri Lanka, normally they tend to go to a travel agent such as Trail Finder or Kuoni which are based in the UK. That travel company then contacts the Sri Lankan Destination Management Company (DMC) for the ground handling. DMC will execute the plan arranged by your company back in your country after having a discussion with the client. 

But instead of contacting Kuoni, now the person from the UK can directly contact a local tour operator in Sri Lanka and ask to plan their holiday in Sri Lanka. Cut out the middleman! That’s right. This can be simply done by visiting the websites of the local tour operators in Sri Lanka.

Bellanvila Temple - Sri Lanka
Bellanvila Temple, Colombo. There are number of historical temples are available around the city of Colombo

Please read This Article, if you are not familiar with the wordings of Destination Management Companies (DMC) and Tour Operators.

Do you belong to any of the following categories? Then this article is for you!

1. I would like to have a personalised tour.

When you want to have a holiday which is perfectly customized and tailored for your specifications.

In this case, contacting a local tour operator in Sri Lanka is the best option. They are the ground experts who can provide the best options for you.

2. I did my research prior to travel, but I would like to have the assistance of an expert

You might have thoroughly researched the travel destination prior to reaching the destination. However, a place like Sri Lanka where the information is not properly organised, can be a hindrance to maximize your budget and time.

Get the assistance of a local tour operator to fill the gap in what you have researched.

3. I am not a backpacker, and I want to have a comfortable holiday

For backpackers and budget travellers, consulting an online travel agent is always a good way to go since they offer a wide variety of accommodation options that include hostels, homestays and more. 

However, if you like your comfort and the safety of a nice hotel room during your vacation, reserving through a travel agent is ideal in Sri Lankan setup, as agent’s rates are always better than the online rates when it comes to star-rated hotels and other high end specialized accommodation.

4. I would like to prepare my tour well in advance

You prefer planning and fully confirming your annual vacation well in advance. 

Great! By booking through a local tour operator, you can lock the best prices for your reservations with a small advance payment, may be with a Early Bird Discount!

Why Should You Use A Local Tour Operator To Plan Your Holiday?

1. Price Advantage

The main advantage of using a local tour operator is the massive price advantage that you get with it, when compared to a non-Sri Lankan travel agent back in your own country. There are many reasons for it. 

The first reason is simple, by contacting a local travel agent directly, you are skipping a few parties in the loop – hence avoiding their mark-up/profits on the final price. 

The second reason is that compared to the UK, Australia or most of the developed countries, overheads are lower in Sri Lanka. 

For example, in the UK, you need to pay at least GBP 8.00 per hour to hire a person. Also you need to follow restricted procedures to run the business such as deposit for payment protection etc. 

In Sri Lanka, however, a minimum UK salary for one week is a decent monthly salary to hire a qualified person. Also, compared to the United Kingdom or Australia requirements to run a tour operating company is very minimal in Sri Lanka. 

Meanwhile, the cost of living in Sri Lanka is substantially lower and therefore, you will definitely get the price benefit when everything is considered.

Infinity pool, Tri Koggala
Tri Koggala - A beautiful boutique hotel

2. You Will Get The Assistance of the Ground Experts

When you contact the local tour operators based in Sri Lanka, you will be able to get the assistance of the people who are expertise on geography, hotels, activities and most importantly the people who truly know and understand the Sri Lankan culture.

This includes, unusual weather patterns, brand new hotels, unique excursions, cultural speciality to that country etc. 

Travel agents based outside of Sri Lanka are always dependent on their partners in Sri Lanka to provide information if you ask them.

3. Tailor-Making Your Tour in Sri Lanka

The modern travel trend is to have private tours rather than pre-set group tours. Therefore, you will get the chance of customising the tour to match it perfectly for you. 

For example, you might be a huge fan of wild elephants but do not like to see tamed elephants, or you might love to taste some local authentic food during the holiday. 

If you are organising your holiday with a local tour expert, you can advise him/ her to customise the holiday accordingly. 

Also, local Sri Lankans are always very much familiar with the culture, road conditions, laws and practices, emergency situations etc. Thus, a local tour operator in Sri Lanka can certainly assist you more efficiently than a tour operator from your own country. 

We have written a detailed article on planning a tailor-made tour in Sri Lanka.

Tea Estate, Sri Lanka

Disadvantages Of Using A Local Tour Operator In Sri Lanka

1. There is no face to face meetings

If you are communicating with a local tour expert based in Sri Lanka from another country, there will not be any face to face discussions. You can communicate via emails, messenger services or phone calls. 

Nevertheless, these communication methods have some limitations, but still it is possible to develop a proper travel plan.

2. Quality Maintaining & Standards and a Place to Make Complaints

Travel industry is one of the highest revenue generators in most developed countries in the world, they have implemented strict mechanisms to protect their people from misconduct or scams. 


As an example, all the tour operators in the UK should register with payment protection schemes such as ATOL which give the ultimate benefit to the customer when it comes to the complaints, refunds and other grievances.

If you are dealing with a reputed tour operator in Sri Lanka, they will follow a strict procedure to maintain the high quality of standards which will not disappoint you eventually. 

3. You Will Miss The Regular Travel Designer

The travel agent of your country which you use regularly to plan your holidays, knows your travel choices, travel patterns etc. Regular travel designer can always suggest a suitable travel plan for you unlike a new travel planner suggesting you a tour.

But, your regular travel agent cannot give the best for you as their in depth knowledge of certain destinations is limited. If you know what you like, having a destination expert will always assist you to design a unique travel plan for your dream holiday in Sri Lanka. 

Types Of Tour Operators In Sri Lanka

Tour operating companies still play a crucial role in the Sri Lankan travel industry. The tour operating types have similarities and differences depending on the market segment they handle. When you select a tour operator to design your tour, it is better you know about their style depending on the type of market they handle.

There are a large number of Destination Management Companies (DMC) in Sri Lanka who directly work with large or small foreign tour operators such as TIU , Kuoni UK or Annex – Russia.

Since most of the travel companies have their operations to match a B to B business model (Business to Business), and they are not much experienced in handling direct clients from abroad. However, reputed travel agencies have a mechanism of handling direct clients which they have earned after being in the industry for a longer period of time.

1. USA, UK, Australian Client’s Handling Tour Operators in Sri Lanka

Country’s tourism industry is shaped by the influx of tourists from the United Kingdom since it started during the colonial period. As a favorite holiday destination of British people, which is located off a half a day air travel time, Sri Lanka gets a comparatively luxury clientele from the United Kingdom (UK). 

Most of the luxury hotels specially cater for UK visitors and tour operators who handle the UK market are quite considerate of the quality as they work with reputed UK based tour operators. 

Even though the tour operators of the USA and Australian are comparatively new to Sri Lanka, they have distinguished features, since all of them speak English and therefore, they have similar characteristics.

2. Chinese & Indian Client’s Handling Tour Operators in Sri Lanka

Chinese & Indian tour operators mainly focus on volume. It is no wonder as these two countries rank on the top and the second place of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka respectively. 

These tours can be lower in quality and price too. Some hotels have different rate structures for Chinese & Indian Markets.

Typically they have fixed routes while using city based large hotels for their accommodation. Chinese & Indian nationals would love to have similar food types as they experience in their home countries when travelling

2. Other Tour Operators

Other tour operators maintain respective tour arrangements depending on their specialised segment. For an instance, countries like the Netherlands & France have a mixed clientele. Netherland travellers would love to travel off beaten routes. 

Language specialisation is one of the key features of these tour operators where they handle any clientele who speak any other language than English.

What Would You Need To Check Prior To Selecting The Best Local Tour Operators In Sri Lanka

There are hundreds of tour operators offering their services in Sri Lanka. 

Due to various reasons, the number of tour operators available online is higher than the actual number of tour operators available physically in Sri Lanka. 

One of the reasons is, it is not essential to maintain a physical entity to run a small scale tour operating business in Sri Lanka. Merely, the virtual presence can help reduce the overheads, various types of taxes that will directly affect the total cost. However, company reputation and overall responsibility is essential to operate a tour in Sri Lanka as it is vital to establish back up plans in an emergency situation. 

Below points will help to identify the best local tour operators in Sri Lanka to plan and organise your next holiday in Sri Lanka. 

1. Online Presence

Sri Lanka is not a highly digitised country. You will not find extraordinary professional online presence in most of the local businesses, except a few large conglomerates. But still the level of the presence is important to check the credibility of a certain local tour operators of Sri Lanka.

Following things are the main characteristics of online presence. 

Sri Lanka is not a highly digitised country. You will not find extraordinary professional online presence in most of the local businesses, except a few large conglomerates. But still the level of the presence is important to check the credibility of a certain local tour operators of Sri Lanka.

Following things are the main characteristics of online presence. 

  1. Having a decent looking website including required information about travel in Sri Lanka.
  2. Regular updating on social media channels.
  3. Mentions in review platforms or travel forums.

2. Responsiveness

If you are contacting a foriegn tour operator which you will not be able to see physically, communication is one of the most vital things to consider. If the person does not communicate with you properly, that will affect the entire process. 

Depending on your preference, the agent from the company should be available to communicate with you via email, any messenger service or over the phone too. 

It is good to observe how long they will take to respond to your query or question. However, make sure you always consider the geographical time differences when considering the responsive time. 

Especially, when you are dealing with large tour operators, who are specialised for bulk operations, your enquiry might be stuck in a queue due to the heavy workload. If this happens, you will not be able to get the personalised service, which I am going to explain in another point.

3. Online Reviews

This might be the very first thing you will check prior to making any purchasing decision online. 

It is better to check any of the travel company’s reviews in independent review portals such as TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, Feefo etc. These reviews provide the feedback of previous user experiences. 

Further, If there are any sort of reviews available, there is a high possibility that the specific company has been serving direct clients who are directly working with them.

4. Language Proficiency

It is crucial to communicate with a person who is comfortable in using the language that you use. Most large scale tour operators have employees who are proficient in various languages such as English, French, German, Spanish etc. 

But just having the language knowledge is not enough if they are not knowledgeable.

5. Geographical Knowledge and Product Knowledge

This is the most important thing which makes your tour plan unique and personalised. 

I would say 99% of Sri Lankan tours use typical round tour plans which covers only the popular attractions in Sri Lanka whereas Sri Lanka has many amazing things to offer other than the typical attractions. 

According to my experience, you can make your travel plan unique based on your selection under the following points.

  1. Areas you want to visit
  2. Activities you would like to engage
  3. Accomodation options you would like to take
  4. Method of transportation

Although, these points purely depend on your travel choices, I would emphasize that you need to communicate your travel choice in detail to the local tour operator in Sri Lanka to suggest best suited travel plans for you.

Using a detailed enquiry form like this Tailormade Holiday Sri Lanka will help you to communicate with the other party. 

It is not just about travelling. You are going to have your dreamt holiday in Sri Lanka. There are various kind of accomodation options available around the country and having updated knowledge and experience is important to a local tour operator to offer such options for you. 

So for that, it is important to have a holistic knowledge on each area of the travelling, even from the person who is going to assist you to provide the best travel plan for you. This is not a qualification that someone will earn, but a skill which comes from experience, knowledge and attitude. 

Who Are The Best Local Tour Operators In Sri Lanka

As a travel industry professional based on my continuous research, I would like to provide the following information about Local Tour Operators in Sri lanka which are catering for direct clients without depending on a foriegn travel agents.

A medium scale company specialised in handling direct clients to travel in Sri Lanka

Specialisation Direct clients handling Day Tours, Round Tours & Tailormade Tours

Web site https://www.bluelankatours.com/

TripAdvisor Review for Blue Lanka Tours – 5 / 5

Email letstravel@bluelankatours.com

Contact Number –  (+94) 777 300 852

A medium scale company specialised in handling direct clients to travel in Sri Lanka.

Specialisation – Direct clients handling, Round Tours & Tailormade Tours

Web site https://www.olankatravels.com/

Email info@olankatravels.com

TripAdvisor Review for Olanka Travels – 4.5 / 5 

Contact Number –  (+94) 773 306 306

A small scale tour operator in Sri Lanka, highly specialised in tailor-made tours in Sri Lanka.

Specialisation -Direct clients handling, Round Tours & Tailormade Tours

Web site http://www.feelsl.com/

Email info@feelsl.com / feelslholidays@gmail.com

TripAdvisor Review for FeelSL Holidays – 5 / 5 

Contact Number –  (+94) 76 66 34 223

A large scale tour operator in Sri Lanka, the company owns the Tear Drop hotel chain in Sri Lanka.

Specialisation – Agent’s clients handling, Round Tours & Tailormade Tours

Web site – https://www.reddottours.com/ 

Email enquiries@reddottours.com

TripAdvisor Review for Reddot Tours – 4.5 / 5 

Contact Number –  (+94) 117 895 810

The travel arm of John Keells Holdings, the largest business conglomerate in Sri Lanka. Mother company owns the Cinnamon Hotels.

Specialisation –  Large scale tour operator.

Web site – https://www.walkerstours.com/

Email info@walkerstours.com

TripAdvisor Review for Walkers Tours– 4.5 / 5 

Contact Number –  (+94) 11 2 306 306

One of the biggest hospitality companies in Sri Lanka. This is the travel arm of Jetwing Hotels.

Specialisation –  Large scale tour operator.

Web site – https://www.jetwingtravels.com/home/

Email inquiries@jetwingtravels.com

TripAdvisor Review for Jetwing Travels – Not Available

Contact Number –  (+94) 77 726 5746

Another large scale hospitality company in Sri Lanka. This is the travel arm of Tangerine Hotels.

Specialisation –  Large scale tour operator.

Web site – https://www.tangerinetours.com/

Email tours3@tangerinetours.com

Contact Number –  (+94) 76 440 5983

Online based tour operator in Sri Lanka. 

Specialisation – Direct clients handling, Round Tours & Tailormade Tours, Day Tours and excursions.

Web site – https://www.lanka.com/

Email –  hello@lakpura.com

TripAdvisor Review for Lakpura Travels – 4.5 / 5

Contact Number –  (+94) 778 100 800

Online based tour operator in Sri Lanka. 

Specialisation – Direct clients handling, Round Tours & Tailormade Tours, Day Tours and excursions.

Web site – https://bestoflanka.com/

TripAdvisor Review for Best of Lanka Tours – 4.5 / 5

Contact Number –  (+94) 77 347 6288

The travel arm of Aitken Spence Group, another large conglomerate in Sri Lanka. The company also owns Aitken Spence Hotels.

Specialisation –  Large scale tour operator.

Web site – https://www.aitkenspencetravels.com 

Email astweb@aitkenspence.lk

TripAdvisor Review for Aitken Spence Travels – 4 / 5 

Contact Number –  (+94) 11 2 308 308

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