The Ultimate Guide: Travel Industry Lingo

New to travel, or thinking about switching careers? Maybe you’ve worked in travel for a while, but there’s still the odd acronym that trips you up? 

Like any industry, we’ve got our fair share of insider buzzwords. But here at Lightning, we’re all about inclusivity – and that means making sure everyone knows what the eff we’re on about in job descriptions, interviews, and even once you’re happily installed in your role.

Behold: the ultimate guide to travel industry lingo. If there’s a word or phrase you don’t recognise, you’ll find it here. (And if you don’t, let us know so we can add it!) Study this list and you’ll impress anyone in the know.



Relationships between brands in the travel industry – for example, EDITION (a very sexy brand) is owned by, and therefore affiliated with, Marriott (a less-sexy brand) – which can usually be found at the bottom of a hotel’s homepage.

American Express

More widely known as a credit card business, AMEX have dedicated teams for booking travel and lifestyle requests for Centurion members – HNW and UHNW American Express card users. (See ‘HNW’ and ‘UHNW’.)


Business/Corporate Travel Agencies

Books travel – usually limited to hotels, flights, and transfers – specifically for businesses; for example, a CEO travelling for meetings, or a group of colleagues going to a corporate event.


Exclusively hiring all the rooms and facilities (such as meeting spaces, spa etc.) in a hotel, so it becomes closed to the public.


Comp set

Short for ‘competitive set’, hotels in a local area work together so they aren’t undercutting one another, to make sure the standard rate for a hotel room stays competitive.


A relatively small event for luxury travel suppliers and buyers, whose location changes annually. (See ‘Travel trade show’.)



Stands for Daily Delegate Rate’ – this is a per-person per-day package offered by suppliers that typically includes rooms, meeting space, food and beverage, and other services. (See ‘MICE’.)

Destination Management Company (DMC)

Experts in a specific region or area of the world, used by travel agencies and tour operators when they have a client travelling there (especially if they’re less familiar with the place). DMCs create a local itinerary on their behalf, taking a cut of the commission in exchange. E.g. Madrid&Beyond or Hummingbird Travel



The smallest of the three major US-based consortia (including Virtuoso and Signature) – a network of luxury travel advisors and suppliers that distributes all profits back to its members. (See ‘Consortia’, ‘Virtuoso’, ‘Signature’.)


Fam trips

Also known as ‘familiarisation tours’, these are for tour operators and travel agencies to experience a destination or property for themselves before selling that product to travellers. Usually, trips will be paid for or subsidised by the destination or property as a marketing tactic.


Stands for ‘Free and Independent Traveller’ and refers to someone travelling purely for leisure, usually alone or as a couple.



High Net Worth Individual, defined as someone with $1million in the bank.



The number one flagship event for the luxury travel industry, held in Cannes, France. (See ‘Travel trade show’.)

Independent Consultant (IC)

A standalone travel agent who works for themselves (rather than a tour operator or travel agency) and books travel for their own clients, although they do use a host agency to access booking platforms. They only earn commission on the bookings they make. Example host agencies are:

ProtravelDeparture LoungeValerie Wilson TravelCoastline TravelTravel ExpertsTravel EdgeAltourSmartflyer

Industry rate

A rate negotiated between a supplier and tour operator or travel agent that represents a discount off the rack rate. (See ‘Rack rate’.)


Leisure Travel

People travelling for leisure purposes (i.e. a holiday or vacation), rather than work-related reasons.

LE Miami

An invitation-only trade show for international contemporary luxury suppliers and buyers, held in Miami. (See ‘Travel trade show’.) 

Lifestyle Management Company

Manages lifestyle requests for clients – from personal errands, to achieving fitness and nutrition goals, to organising once-in-a-lifetime experiences. E.g. QuintessentiallyTEN LifestyleKnightsbridge CircleAsk LauraEllidore + Thadeus



The profit made after a room has been sold at a specific rate.


Stands for ‘Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions’. Hotels (particularly those with large meeting/conference room spaces) may host these events as a source of revenue.


Peak/off-peak pricing or high/low season

Different prices at different times of the year, usually relating to weather, travelling habits, and national or school holidays. Peak or high season is the most expensive, while off-peak or low season is the cheapest.


What tour operators and travel agents call the things they sell, including hotels and DMCs. 

Product Manager

Works within a tour operator or travel agency scouting new destinations to add to their portfolio, then trains travel advisors to sell it to clients.

PURE Life Experiences

The number one event for international high-end experiential travel suppliers and buyers, held in Marrakech.


Rack Rate

The cost of a hotel room without any discounts. Usually, tour operators and travel agencies get a discount off rack rates (on behalf of clients) to encourage their ongoing business with suppliers.

Representation Company

Works on behalf of a hotel (or hotels) – often smaller, independent properties with more limited marketing budgets – to promote their product to a particular demographic of tour operators and travel agencies; for example, a hotel in Tanzania might use a UK-based representation company to reach a UK audience. E.g. SLC Representation, Perowne International



Formerly known as TravellerMade – a European consortia of suppliers and travel agencies originally set up to compete with Virtuoso. (See ‘Consortia’ and ‘Virtuoso’.)


A US-based consortia of 375 travel agencies (businesses, not individuals) and 1,300 suppliers that distributes all profits back to its members, this is Virtuoso’s biggest competitor. (See ‘Consortia’ and ‘Virtuoso’.)



An event for international experiential travel suppliers and buyers, held in Mayakoba, Mexico. (See ‘Travel trade show’.)


Issuing flight tickets. The person who does this is a ‘ticketing agent’.

Tour Operator

Creates travel packages for clients, whether bespoke (generally more high-end) or off-the-shelf (generally more mass market) itineraries. Usually, people working for a tour operator will have a base salary, then earn commission for each booking they make. E.g. Audley TravelAbercrombie & KentScott Dunn

Travel trade shows

Industry events where suppliers exhibit to promote their product, while tour operators and travel agencies visit to scope new product and discuss rates. Some are open, whereas others are invitation-only.

Travel Agency/Travel Advisor

Designs bespoke itineraries for clients, or uses a tour operator to curate the package on their behalf. Usually, people working for a travel agency have a base salary, then earn commission for each booking they make. E.g. Cazenove & LloydBlack TomatoLittle EmperorsOROKO



Ultra High Net Worth Individual, defined as someone with $30million in the bank


A platform that suppliers (DMCs, hotels, cruise lines etc.) and buyers (tour operators and travel agencies) pay to be a part of – the benefits being access to high-spending clients for suppliers, and free upgrades or other perks for buyers (and their clients).



The leading global network of luxury travel advisors, who work with top destinations and a vetted portfolio of the best travel brands globally. (See ‘Consortia’.)


We Are Africa

Invitation-only event for luxury Africa suppliers and international buyers, held in Cape Town. (See ‘Travel trade show’.)


Stands for ‘World Travel Market’ – an open-to-all travel trade show for international suppliers and buyers, held in London.


Want to chat to a friendly face about your career (or future career) in the travel industry? Lightning Lounge offers one-to-one video chats for CV tips, career advice, industry insights, or even just a safe space and motivational boost. Why not book a free session today?

In the meantime, the team are here with some advice for hiring managers / employers below:

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Thea Bardot

17th February

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