If you want to start a tour business, the first thing that you need to be sure of is that you have enough passion & love for it. You already love your favorite locations, destinations or activities. Why not turning your passion into a business and share your love with others?
It multiplies that way!
In reality, starting your own business can be stressful. It demands your complete focus and determination. It can also be a deeply rewarding and fulfilling experience professionally and personally. It is especially so for those who dream to be their own bosses. As the popular inspirational quote by American businessman Farrah Gray goes:
"Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs”.
Couldn’t be truer. In the end, our life is only our personal responsibility. So, you must love what you do.
If you’re really passionate about tour and travel industry – these tips will help you with the whole process! So, just follow our lead.
Skills Required to Start a Tour Business
It’s time to find out if you have what it takes. While starting a tour company does not require any professional qualifications, the following skills are incredibly important for anyone who wants to start a tour business.
- Ability to deal with uncertainty and unplanned
- Ability to handle pressure (which is connected to the first one)
- Awareness of emerging trends
It comes without saying that the entrepreneur must also require thorough knowledge about visa regulations, immigration procedures, places of tourist interests, political situations, accommodation and transportation trends, festivals, history and culture, and all other aspects regarding the tour business. As for being aware of emerging trends, you might find one of our previous articles also useful – Tour and Travel Industry Trends for 2017.
Identify Your Niche
Even though you may have detected some interest in your business, you need to do more homework. Ask yourself: what would make a potential guest book with my company? It helps to specialize. Think about what you can offer that’s different or distinct. Without a clear idea of your target customer, you’ll struggle to cut through the competition. And when it comes to identifying your ideal customer – you can download something that will help you with that task here: A Perfect Start: How To Define Your Ideal Customer. Knowing your customer is crucial to be able to provide what they like. What’s their age range? Married or single? And so on.
But first, definitely select your niche. What do you want to show to your guests? What activities do you want to offer to keep them entertained? How can they experience something authentic to your destination that you can organize?
Tour operators can offer overseas cultural tours, domestic sightseeing tours, adventure or nature tours, or any other niche.
Another type of specialization is the budget tour operator catering to the price conscious, or the luxury tour operator catering to people who value experience over money. Take your geographical location into account. Your local tourist attractions are good indicators of what would and would not make a successful tourism business venture. For example, if your area is secluded from the populace and dense with wineries, then guided winery tours could perhaps be a good idea.
Also – size up the competition. Thoroughly research the tourism businesses in your area before you decide to start a tour business. You will want to choose a niche that is not overly congested, and one that you can contribute something unique to.
Write a Business Plan
A solid business plan will guide you going forward. It’s also needed for presenting your idea to potential investors. Your business plan should include a mission statement, a company summary, an executive summary, a service or product offerings, a description of a target market, financial projections and the cost of the operation.
Determine Your Budget and Costs
Do additional research and find out the standard cost factors within the tour and travel industry. Not only will this help you manage your business more effectively, investors will want to know this.
The next step is establishing a budget. Once you determine how much money you’ll have to work with, figure out how much it will take to develop your product or service and create a marketing plan.
Of course, you need to procure the necessary funds. Present your business plan to potential lenders and/or business partners in order to obtain the start-up and operating capital you will need to start a tour business. You’re going to need some sort of funding to start off, whether from your savings, credit cards, loans, grants or venture capitalists. Find an investor who shares your passion, someone you believe you can work with.
Also, extra tips: Insurance is crucial for tour operators. And be sure to watch out for hidden fees and poor exchange rates when paying your foreign supplier.
Obtain the Necessary Licenses & Registration
This is more or less self-explanatory. Obtain all applicable business licenses. Get the necessary business licensing through your local government's business regulatory agency. Starting a tour company requires a business license from the local county, registering a fictitious business name, registering the business structure if required, and checking for any zoning ordinance if setting up a home office, just as it is the case with all other businesses.
Recruit the Right People
It’s only natural that you can’t do everything yourself. As your tour business grows you’ll have to start recruiting. To attract the best people, you need to be able to sell your vision, and this requires a wholehearted belief in what you do. Only hire tour managers who share your values and are committed to giving travelers a great experience. There are no required qualifications to become a tour manager, but there are many university and college courses in tourism management that could be helpful.
If you want to know which skill set, you need to possess if you are interested in being a tour guide or hiring one – definitely read our article What Important Tour Guide Traits Appeal Best to Travelers?.
Market Your Tour Business
Marketing is important for any start-up, and young tour operators are no exception. In the early days, it’s worth thinking about ways to boost your online presence for free.
Could you add a blog to your website to build SEO, or spend time cultivating your social media presence? Always consider what makes sense for your audience – if you’re specializing in holidays for the under-40s, for instance, social media should be your priority. Use social networking sites. Set up accounts/pages on free social networking sites. If you need some more help with the trends regarding Millennials – this is your “go to” article: How to Attract More Millennial Travelers to Your Tour Business. As for social networks, your help is here – 8 Absolutely Effective Social Networks to Promote Tours.
Other possible ways to attract clients include participating in travel and tourism forums and participating in travel shows and trade fairs.
Ask the Tour Industry Leaders
Don’t think it’s a bad idea to ask for advice from someone who has been in your shoes, especially when they have come out successful on the other side. In fact, that's what you need to do when you start a tour business. So, before you get neck deep in a situation that you can’t get out of, don’t be afraid to ask the advice of leaders in the industry that have perfected their craft. Sit down, do some research about who to contact and what to ask — and start calling. You’d be surprised how more than likely people will want to help you out.
Listen to the Interests of Your Customers
Once you have become an expert in your niche and you’re looking to expand, look no further than your customers for new ideas. What kind of services do they want? Where do they want to go? What do they want out of a tour? Not only will they prove to be a great resource for idea generation. But they will also help sell your business for you. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing strategies.
But, be careful. Expand intelligently. Once you hit on a formula that works, it can be tempting to expand quickly and add lots of new tours. It’s easy to forget your original goals, and then you might struggle to maintain the quality that makes your tour company special. Thoroughly plan and research each tour to maintain high standards.
Finally – You’ll Need Good Scheduling
When you first start a tour business, scheduling tours can seem a bit challenging. Determine how many tours you can complete in a week. As your tour business grows, it’s only natural that it’s going to be more complexed. If you need help with scheduling tours, and organization in general, among many other perks – try an online booking system. It will save you time and money. You can read more about all the positive and negative sides in the article - Online Booking – Truthful Insider Facts You Need to Know. Something that will most definitely prove itself useful to you when you start a tour business.
Reach out to us if you’d appreciate some help! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us or share it right here.
Finally, if you liked this article, share the love with your colleagues!