Starting a tour company takes passion, dedication, and hard work. As a tour operator, you need in-depth knowledge of the local history and community. You also need excellent communication skills and no shortage of patience! But one thing you don’t need is a massive budget.

In this post, we’ll share a step-by-step guide on how to start a tour company with a modest budget. Let’s get started.

1.  Find your niche 

Your first step is to check that there’s a market opportunity for tour companies in your area. Consult your local tourism board and talk to local business owners. Also, talk to tourists who visit the area to gauge interest.

If there is a market for tour companies, you need to find your niche in the travel industry. Below are a few suggestions for how you can do this:

  1. Create the type of tour you would enjoy.
  2. Look at the local tourist attractions一for instance, if the area has lots of nature trails, you could offer nature or cycling tours.
  3. Look at the competition一you need a niche that’s not too congested so you can stand out.

2. Know your target market 

Next, you need to think about the people your tours will appeal to. What are their interests? What’s their age group? What are their pain points and goals? You need to know your target market so you can tailor your tour to suit them.

For example, if your customers are mostly older people, you need to avoid steep hills and lots of walking. If you want to attract families, you need to think about pushchairs and how to keep children entertained.

Use your research to build a profile of your ideal customers that you can refer to later.

Star a tour company by knowing your target market

3. Check your legal requirements

Next, you need to check your legal requirements. For instance, you may have to meet health and safety requirements or take a training course. Your local tour body is a good place to start.

There are a few things you need to do to make your company legal, including:

Register your business

First, you need to register your travel business as a sole trader, corporation, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC). Each option has pros and cons, so think about which one makes the most sense for you.

You can fill out a company registration form online or register at your local business registration office.

Get your tour operator and business licenses 

You then need to get your tour operator and business licenses. The process for obtaining them should be on your local government’s or tourist body’s website.

You may also need extra permits or licenses一for instance if you plan to operate vehicles on your tour.

Identify your tax requirements 

Next, you need to register for business taxes. The tax you’re liable for depends on where you operate and the type of legal entity you are. You may want to employ a tax professional or look for information on Self Assessment software to help you complete your income tax returns quickly and accurately.

Open a business bank account

It’s good practice to open a separate business bank account. That way, you can keep an accurate record of your business’s income and expenses and protect your personal money from lawsuits. You should also get business credit cards with your account.

Get business insurance 

Finally, you need to get business insurance to help secure your financial future. At the very least, you need liability insurance so your insurance company can pay any claims relating to personal injury or lost or damaged property. 

4. Estimate costs and set your budget

The next step is to estimate your startup and operating costs so you can set a realistic budget. Startup costs for a tour company are often minimal, but you’ll need to factor in costs like:

  • A computer
  • An Internet connection
  • Applications and software
  • A website
  • Marketing materials (such as business cards, flyers, and paid social media posts)
  • Business Insurance
  • Fuel and other vehicle expenses
  • A phone plan

You may want to hire an accountant or use accounting software to help you track your finances, manage your invoices and receipts, and so on.

5. Build your business plan 

All businesses, no matter their size, need a business plan. A tour operator business plan is a roadmap you can follow to grow your business. It’s also a great way to impress potential business partners and investors. Your business plan should include:

  • An executive summary
  • A mission statement
  • A company description
  • Your short-term and long-term business goals
  • Your target customers
  • Your service offerings
  • Financial projections
  • Operational costs

6. Design your brand

Your brand defines how people perceive your business. So, you need a strong brand identity that reflects what your business stands for. To design your brand, you need to:

Create your logo

You need to create a logo to use on all your business communications, marketing materials, and so on. The design and colors should reflect your business. 

You can create a logo using a free online tool, or hire a graphic designer to create it for you.

Choose your opening hours 

Decide how often your tours will be (such as hourly, mornings and afternoons, or daily) and at what time(s). This will depend on how long your tours last and whether you’re doing this part-time or full-time.

Also, make sure you factor in holidays and special occasions. For instance, you could do special Halloween and Christmas-themed tours.

Set up your contact details 

You need to set up a business phone number and email address so people can contact you. To start with, a prepaid SIM card and an email address like your.business@email.com should be fine.

Set your pricing

Decide what you will charge people to go on your tours. Look at the average price for your area and niche, and think about what you offer. If you offer something your competitors don’t, don’t be afraid to charge a bit more. Plus, you could have different pricing tiers, such as family tour packages and discounts for seniors, students, and carers. 

Create your brand story

Often, your brand story sells your business, so you need to think about it carefully. Your brand story should include information like:

  • Why you started the tour
  • What makes your company different
  • The problems you encountered
  • What you’ve learned by doing the tour
  • Your values (for instance, eco-friendly, dog-friendly, and so on)

7. Create your website and social media pages

Most people find companies online, so a website is essential. Your website should tell customers about your company (this is a great place to put your brand story) and detail what you offer and at what price. Plus, you can integrate booking software to take online bookings and payments.

You should also create social media pages for your business. Research which sites your target market uses the most. For example, younger people spend the most time on Instagram and TikTok. Also, link back to your website (and vice versa).

8. Promote your business 

Finally, you need to market your business to potential customers. You can base your marketing strategy on your business plan and ideal customer profile. Below are some strategies you can use to promote your company:

  • Engage with your local tourism community
  • Network with local business owners and create local strategic partnerships
  • Create a Google Business Profile
  • List your company with online travel agencies
  • Use email marketing
  • Post regularly on social media
  • Start a blog
  • Use paid advertising (if your budget stretches that far)

Track the results of your marketing campaigns, using analytics tools, so you can see what’s working and what needs tweaking. You can also see which sources bring the most website traffic so you know where to focus your marketing efforts.

9. Set up your business with the right system

Once you’ve finalized all the elements of starting and tour and activity business, you’ll need a system that will allow you to run your business efficiently. By utilizing an online booking software, you’ll streamline your processes – leaving minimal room for errors and mistakes.

An online booking system like Rezdy equips your business with advanced tools, such as:

Not only do these features automate your admin duties, but they’ll also smoothen your customer’s booking experience – allowing both you and your customers to place and accept bookings 24/7 in under 5 minutes.

Start your tour company today 

Starting a business in tourism is rewarding, but also takes time and effort. One thing you don’t need, though, is a huge budget. By following the steps in this post, you can start a tour company with a modest budget and turn your passion into a successful travel franchise.

Join the thousands of Rezdy customers that grew their revenue and bookings by over 20% in 2022. Start a free 21-day trial or book a demo with our team of experts today to find out how Rezdy can fit within your new venture.

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