If you want to start a successful tour business, you probably realized that it’s hard to know how to even start. The first requirement of starting any business is that you have a passion for it. If you don’t, it’s so much harder to commit and make it happen. If you want to learn how to start a tour company, it’s vital that you have a passion for travel. Learning about new activities, destinations and vacation spots should excite you.
Creating a tour company from the ground up is hard work.
You’ll find that there are countless things to consider. It’s important that you undertake planning and start in the right order. If not, you could waste time and money focusing on the wrong things.
Follow along with the steps this post lays out for you to get started off on the right foot. It will outline what you should do up to your first tour, and afterward. This article created by our team at Amelia helps you to find out exactly how to open a tour business.
Skills Required to Start a Tour Business
Starting a tour business doesn’t require you to have specific qualifications. However, you’ll find the following skills are very useful to you in the travel industry:
- Thinking on the fly and coping when things don’t go to plan.
- Thinking outside the box is important for tour guides. Tourism is actually a very creative industry. A tour guide that does best makes its tours stand out from the pack.
- Being able to perform under pressure.
- Having good organizational and planning skills. This is vital for undertaking the steps necessary to make your tour company successful.
- Keep up to date on the latest trends. Tourism and tours cover many different things and it’s important to know about emergent trends in the industry.
- Being a people person. You need to be likable and able to chat with people. As a tour operator, people will ask you all sorts of things from local history to restaurant recommendations.
- You need to be able to convince people that yours is the best company to travel with. You’ll have to establish your name as a trusted tour guide.
How to start a tour company, Step #1: The groundwork
Here’s your plan for setting up your main groundwork for your tour agency.
Check the Legalities
The very first thing you should start doing is checking what your local tour body requires from you. This will vary between countries and even states.
You will need to do some in-depth research on laws applicable to travel businesses where you live. You could try getting in touch with a hosting firm and they can advise you on what you need to do.
You will need to apply for a Federal Tax ID number at this stage.
Also, make sure you check out the health and safety regulations, as adhering to these is vital for tour companies. Whether there will be a lot of rules to follow really depends on the type of trips you plan to do.
For example, hiking out in the country overnight would have a lot more to take into consideration than an art gallery tour. Sometimes there may be a health and safety-related course you’ll be required to take before you can start trading.
Form a Legal Entity
We previously covered this topic in an article on how to start a small business.
Many people find that this amount of work is overwhelming. If you find it’s too much, you could use a registered agent service that can help you do this.
Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
For protecting yourself, it’s essential that you open a new bank account just for your business. You’ll want credit accounts with this too.
Using the same accounts for your business and personal affairs puts your own assets and equity at risk if you get sued. This is called ‘piercing your corporate veil’ in the business world.
The next step is a challenging one – set your budget. Many who are learning how to start a tour agency find this difficult to do.
You’ll need to know how much money you’ve got to spend on the business. Then you’ll need to calculate how much money it will cost to set up your tour company.
Those learning how to start a tour company are often surprised that it requires very little start-up capital. It can be started from your home, renting a kiosk or small store as you start making money. Often, the start-up costs will stay under $2,000. That doesn’t mean that your financial planning is any less important than for any other business.
Starting a travel business will require a budget that includes:
- Setting up a webpage
- Software for scheduling, like Amelia, for example.
- Computer or laptop
- Advertising – posters, paid social media posts, business cards
When starting a travel agency, you will need a strategy to manage your funding. Maybe you’re funding it yourself and starting from home. Or maybe you need to seek investments.
Either way, you will need money coming in to cover expenses. If you’re planning to work from home, maybe your family can help.
Step #2: Design Your Tour
Choose Your Target Market
Opening a travel agency requires that you do some research on your potential customer demographic.
First, you must choose who you’re aiming to get on your tours. You are likely thinking ‘whoever wants to come’… but it doesn’t work like that. If you have a lot of older people coming on your tours, you need to consider the accessibility and length of your tour.
If you want people to be able to bring their kids, you need to account for pushchairs and slow walkers. You need to decide who you’re aiming at in order to set up your tours to be equipped for those people.
Different customers will be looking for information in different places too. Older folk may look in the newspaper and younger people may be happy to peruse your website.
No matter which target market you choose, find out everything you can about them and their preferences. If you do this, you’ll find you cut out a lot of competition as you’re no longer competing with everyone, just those who specialize in the demographic you do as well.
Write Out Your Business Plan
Now that you’ve got all the requirements sorted out, you’ll need a business plan for starting a tour company.
This is a document containing all your ideas and how you’ll achieve your goals. It is your complete guide to how you’ll start your business.
A good business plan should contain:
- Company description
- Target demographic analysis
- Potential partnerships
- Financial projection
Determine Your Tour Pricing
After deciding who you want on your tours and you have created your business plan, you need to decide how much to charge for your services.
Unless your tours are completely unique, pricing will be of critical importance to how well you do. Find out how much your competitors are charging for similar tours. Keep your pricing competitive with these. Look at what other tour guides are charging.
You’ll also need to think about what your customers will be willing to pay. Note that prices are often lower in the tourism ‘low season’ and many operators have lower prices for children and large groups.
Step #3: Market Your Tour
Listen to the Interests of Your Customers
After you’ve run a few tours and they’ve gone well, you’ll be wondering what to do next.
If you’re looking to expand your offerings, who better to ask what to do than your customers? By asking them what kind of tour they wish you had, you can find some amazing ideas.
This will help you advertise as well, by contacting past customers, they will be reminded of your services. It could also help with word of mouth.
Do Some Branding Exercise
Having a strong brand is very important to your success as a new tour company. Branding gives people an idea about your company before they have even interacted with you.
Positive perceptions of your company can actually be created through your logo. When designing anything else like business cards or brochures, make sure these are in keeping with your logo design. The colors, patterns, and font should all remain consistent. Communicate a cohesive brand message about what you do and what you’re about.
Promote Your Tour Business
To get customers, you’ll need to do a lot of marketing to grow your online presence.
When you’re starting out, almost no one will be aware of your tour company. You need to get peoples’ attention to a range of platforms. Before they can book with you, customers need to know that you exist.
There is a range of platforms you can use to advertise your tour business. Create ads and put them on social media, the local newspaper, and print them to put in your local café.
Have brochures and other materials customers can take away from your office. Make sure to include all of this in your budget when you set it up.
Establish Your Web Presence
These days, tour operators wanting to be successful must have a website. To be found on search engines, you’ll find it very helpful to hire a search engine optimization specialist.
Your website will tell customers all about your company and what you offer. All your social media posts should link to your website. This is so that potential clients can find all the information they need, including your contact details.
Adding a blog to your site can build SEO optimization. Spending time on building up your social media posts can also help a lot. It would depend on your target demographic. if you want more under 40, spend more time on social media. For over 40s, try more newspaper and local advertising.
Your social media channels are still important, however, regardless of who your target audience is. Try using YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote your business.
If you set up an account on each of these sites, make it look sleek and cohesive with your brand. Doing things by halves will only leave a bad impression on potential clients.
Start Generating Revenue
If you want to be a tour guide, this article should help you get underway. Get your requirements completed, create a business plan, and build brand recognition for your tour operator business.
The main thing, though, is that you are passionate and enthusiastic about the travel industry. Customers can feel if you are and it makes a huge difference in how knowledgeable they consider you and how much they will enjoy the tour. If you love having friends visit and showing them around cool places, this is the perfect industry for you to enter.
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