So you want to start a tour business…

So you want to start a tour business…

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Check here for our upcoming free training courses to show you all you need to know to start a day tour business in your city.

So, you want to start a tour business. Yeah you do!

We happen to think we’re the experts in the field, because turning passionate city lovers into profitable tour businesses is what we do every day! So we thought we’d ask the tough questions, share some of our knowledge, and give you the chance to do a self-assessment to see if starting a tour company is right for you.

First, and most important questions we’re going to ask you:

  • Do you have a passion for the place you live?
  • Do you want others to love your city like you do?
  • Do you want to make a living from doing something that you love?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then there’s a solid chance that the idea to start your own tour business is a good one. However! Like any life decision, there are a few things you need to consider beforehand to make sure it’s actually the right decision for you.

tour guide with travellers in Venice

Second, and almost the most important thing (sorry in advance, it’s kinda boring): before taking even one more step further, you’re going to want to contact your local government-run tourism body to understand what, if any, rules and requirements they have in place for you to operate a legal business in your city. For most places, if you are doing a walking tour or tour using local transit, you will find there are very few restrictions to getting started legally. Some cities / provinces / countries do, however, have rules around guiding tourists and actually require the completion of a course. It’s best to have all of this information before you get too far down the line, as you don’t want to get knee deep before realising you’re not properly licensed…

Okay, okay, enough of the boring stuff……………..

Next, ask yourself the following question and answer out loud. The first question I ask anyone who approaches Urban Adventures about becoming one of our business partners is to tell me about their city. It generally only takes me about two sentences to determine what someone’s likelihood of success is, and here’s why: it’s incredibly hard to fake passion (and honestly, if you don’t have passion, then starting your own tour company isn’t the right move for you). Your customers feed off your passion and the way you communicate it, and if they aren’t getting a buzz from your super enthusiasm, then everything will be just a bit, well, meh. Trust us, we know. It won’t be the Best. Day. Ever. for them or for you, and in our world, that’s reason enough to stop right now and go no further.

But hey now, if you’ve passed the passion test, then keep reading! The next step is to break that passion down into bite-sized chunks. What is it in particular that you love about your city, that you think will give others a quick, but deep, appreciation for what you see through your own eyes? Is it the food scene? Or the street art? Or the sports? Or the music scene? What are the things that make you sit back and think – gee, I love this place. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step – it’s here where the first kernel of tour inspiration comes from.

So now, take your most favourite theme and work out a narrative that has an introduction, a middle, and a conclusion. Sound familiar? Just like writing a story or an essay, right? Don’t worry, this is about as academic as we get, but it’s important: in our experience, the best tours are the ones that tell a compelling narrative: a simple and easy-to-remember story filled with insights and quirks that raise people’s eyebrows and capture their attention. You want people to love the story so much that they go home and tell it to their family and friends. Think about it this way: you‘re creating the stories that will be shared at dinner parties around the world. Cool, eh? So for example, if food is your passion you might look at how the pattern of immigration to your city has developed the food scene. Your absolute favourite places to eat (that no tourist would ever find) might be Italian, Jewish, and Mexican, and then through the story of immigration you can tell your city’s food story in a way that gives the visitor more than just super tasty food, it gives them some context as to why this food is in this city. Augment your story by playing around with different timeframes, architecture, and anecdotes related to the restaurants, the cuisine, or the eras, and now you have a great story to tell that matches the great food and quirky neighbourhoods you’re visiting.

tour guide with travellers in Rio de Janeiro

Almost there! The final piece of magic is to bring other real local people into your story that your group can interact with. Taking the food example above, by choosing your hard, fast, all-time favourite locally run spots where the vendors have known you for eons, you are likely to get that warm and genuinely hospitable welcome – and so are your group. This gives them the chance to meet some local characters, the creators of that extra bit of magic that add that last level of depth to the overall experience.

Alright – are you inspired yet? Ready to start your own tour business? By now you should have a decent idea as to whether or not you have what it takes to create a great product that people will buy and love. If you don’t have a sleepless night tonight thinking of all the different possibilities for the killer tour of your city, then, well, maybe starting your own tour company isn’t for you. It probably also isn’t for you if you freak out over the next step, which is…dun dun dun…commitment. Remember, what we’re ultimately talking about here is starting a business. Without commitment, the business will fail. Nothing is surer. We promise. There is no such thing as a ‘part-time business’ – that’s just a hobby.

Take a minute (or more) and really look deep into yourself and your life to determine the answer to these final questions:

  • Is this what I want to do?
  • Am I willing to give this a real go?

The reason you need to be frank with yourself is because when you start a tour company you will be challenged early on and from our experience, it’s pretty easy to lose focus. No business starts today and is successful tomorrow, and that’s no exception in tourism. All businesses require work. Your great tour idea requires execution and part of that execution is selling your tour and yourself to anyone and everyone who will listen. In the beginning, you won’t have customers every day, but that’s okay – in many respects it’s the most important time for your business, because when you do have customers every day, it’s hard to find time to continue to do sales. You need to be prepared to go out and talk to your local council, local tourist information office, hotel and tour desks, and go to Meetups and Travel Massive events. You also need to be prepared to market yourself online by building a social media presence for your business, particularly through capturing and showcasing your beloved city and your superior local knowledge in images posted on social media (ahem, Instagram).

If you’ve considered all of this and are still thinking, “Yes I can do this! This is the life I want!”, then the next step is simple. Get in touch with us and we’ll make this happen together.

tour guide with travellers in Melbourne

At Urban Adventures, we give passionate people everything they need for their dream to start a tour business. With no upfront joining costs, we give our partners their booking and reservations system, their local website that can take online bookings, access to global markets through our distribution, professional marketing resources and a global marketing team to draw on, peer support of hundreds of others who are doing the same thing and share your passion in cities around the world, training and professional ongoing support, and really a whole heap more.

Still not 100% sure? Want to sit on it for a bit? No worries. Like our “Join Urban Adventures” Facebook page to keep tabs on this opportunity. And if it’s not for you but you know someone who’s the perfect fit, please share this article with them.

If you’re ready now, ready to start a tour company, we can help you make that happen. Consider the above, ask yourself the tough questions, and if you emerge victorious, please get in touch.

We hope every day from this one forward is the Best. Day. Ever.

About author
Profile photo of Tony Carne

Tony Carne

General Manager and Fearless Leader @ Urban Adventures. Global citizen, traveller, travel dreamer, travel talker, Melbourne lover.

Comments
  • Alistair Khol#1

    October 22, 2016

    Wanting to create a travel business in 3 countries.

    Reply
  • Matthew#2

    January 9, 2017

    I’m looking at starting a guided tour business across countries in Europe for Australian based customers. Have done a fair bit of research already. What advice can you give for that particular avenue? cheers

    Reply
    • Andrei#3

      May 1, 2017

      Hello Matt, if you get this pls contact me at zagorodniiandrei@yahoo.com
      Thx and great day

      Reply
    • Sameh Makram#4

      July 27, 2017

      Hi Matthew
      My name is Sam , am Egyptologist tour guide based in Egypt. Am a tour guide since the year 2000′ for the last 14 years been guiding so many Aussies . So have a good experience about what the aussies like and what they prefer to do while they visiting Egypt.so am wondering if we can do some business together if you are interested, by the way I was awarded as best 5th tour guide in the world according to tour radar.you can check my reviews in tour radar as my full name is Sameh Makram working for Travel Talk tours in Egypt. Hope to hear from you soon.

      Reply
  • Tony Carne#5

    January 31, 2017

    Hi Matthew – love your ambition. The advice I can give you is that lots about running a travel business is fun. Creating itineraries, inspiring guests who travel with you, a great lifestyle. Behind all that however is a mountain of hard work and perseverance. Catching customers is the hard bit and it is a battle that never ends. You say you would like to run tours for Australian based customers – which is fine on one hand as focus for your marketing efforts – but in my experience to succeed you need to cast the net wider, have a set of values for customers to relate to and chase all those customers – regardless of where they come from. Good luck – if we can help, just yell out.

    Reply
  • Mike Miller#6

    March 8, 2017

    Hello, I was a ticket sales rep for a tour company in St Augustine FL. I fell in love with the city and the history. Currently I have a full time job and run my own home based travel agency. I am considering adding a walking tour arm to my travel business. I have the information on how to get my tour guide license but how would I get set up with you?

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#7

      March 23, 2017

      Hi Mike – thanks for your message. We have our next information and training session in the US on June 1 and 2 in Philadelphia. The course is free to attend. We’ll send you some more info as we’d be very keen to have someone amazing in your area.

      Reply
  • Sofy#8

    March 18, 2017

    I am from South India. I am very much into starting an adventure cum food tourism in my place. How do I start up one and get interested travellers from worldwide?… I need strong guidens

    Reply
  • maurice grove#10

    April 23, 2017

    hi we have just opened a local travel store in Hinunangan Southern Leyte Philippines and would like to set us a series of local day tours using local vans etc. Our store front is located in the town bus station and very visible. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#11

      May 21, 2017

      Hi Maurice – if you plan on creating and running the tours through your business then you’d be the perfect type of of person/business that Urban Adventures can help to get started and accelerate sales. I’ll shoot you an email.

      Reply
  • Collins Hamisi#12

    May 4, 2017

    I’m looking forward to starting a tour firm in Kenya. What would you advise me to do to be on your platform

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#13

      May 21, 2017

      Hi Collins – what part of Kenya are you from? We already have a partner in Nairobi but could interested in other parts of the country. Like all our partners – you need to have appropriate licences and legal to apply.

      Reply
  • Frank Javani#14

    May 7, 2017

    Hi..just visited Iran and Armenia this past couple of months, I am now looking into doing private tours for the two countries…from North America, I am based in L.A and Toronto, have been in hospitality buisness for a couple of decates and traveled extesively in the areas mentioned..my question is related to the size and scale of the buisness I can start that you think would be proper to make a buk..I am pationate about this and cunrrently researching the rules and regulations with the mentioned countries…also thinking of offering small group deals in two classes, economy and buisness … Would appriciate any input you can give…thanks in advance..

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#15

      May 21, 2017

      Hi Frank – Urban Adventures just do Day tours – so we don’t do any full service outbound. The hard part is always finding customers – but if you’ve got that part sorted then the rest shouldn’t be too hard. If we can help with your activities in Iran – just ask. We have offices in Tehran and Shiraz.

      Cheers,

      TC

      Reply
  • Dianna#16

    May 9, 2017

    Hello,

    I am interested in turning my volunteer tour experience into a paid business. But when I click on the Apply button, it looks like all the questions are targeted to already existing business and the questions are required. Am I missing something? Is there a different link I should be going to?

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#17

      May 21, 2017

      Hi Diana – we help people right from pre-launch through to scale in their new business so not be an existing business is not a deterrent to become an Urban Adventures partner. Where exactly are you based?

      Cheers,

      TC

      Reply
  • Lameck#18

    May 23, 2017

    Hi,this is a great insight especially on the factor of passion. I have a passion for the local tourisn in my country Kenya and to accompsny the tourism,am looking to merge it with relevant valuable talks during the tours. My main target market are the students in campus and high schools. My main challenge is getting the key speakers. what do you advise?

    Reply
  • Jeff Rickert#19

    June 4, 2017

    Hello. I live in the Winston-Salem/Greensboro area of NC and am interested in starting a tour guide business here. Do you have anyone in NC yet? Thanks so much for your help.

    Reply
  • Tony#20

    June 7, 2017

    Hi Jeff – thanks for stopping by. Actually our team are in DC right now and we’ve just completed a training session for new partners in Philly last week. What type of tours did you have in mind? When ideally would you be thinking of starting?

    Reply
  • rohawati binti md yusof#21

    June 11, 2017

    hello,
    i am ex malaysia airlines as a senior reservation and ticketing staff and currently l am looking forward to have more experience on starting my own travel and tours business.i know its not easy to do that alone without guidance.Hope you can guide and need your advice too.please do emails me.tks

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#22

      June 14, 2017

      Hi Rowati – you sound like a great candidate. All we need is people with passion and a desire to build something for themselves and then we can help them with the rest. I’ll shoot you an email about getting started.

      Reply
  • Marjorie Singu#23

    June 25, 2017

    hi I read through your article and love it as it was simple..I love my country and I want the world to see my culture and tradition . I am working full time job but over the years have got this drive and passion to start up my own tour/travel company but not sure where to begin

    Reply
  • Daniel Campbell#25

    July 5, 2017

    I would like to start a sightseeing business in Denver. Starting small. 15 passenger Van. Limit 8 per outing. Experience includes driver guide in Alaska for Holland America, Princess and Grayline. Denver is an exciting place. Lastest figures 77.7 million visitors. 19.1 billion dollars from the tourism industry.

    Reply
  • Eyassu Dagnew#26

    July 10, 2017

    Hello Tony, nice to meet you here. My name is Eyassu Dagnew, from Addis Ababa . I am already in business and would like to work with you, i am knowledgeable guide and would like to be your representative in Addis Ababa. If you do not have any other person please contact me.

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#27

      July 31, 2017

      Hi Eyassu – we had a new partner from Addis come to our last training in Philadelphia – so I think we are sorted for there now. Best of luck with your next endeavor. If things don’t work out – I’ll swing back to you.

      Reply
  • Raneem#28

    July 25, 2017

    Hi There I really like your business model and it’s exactly what my sister and I are just starting. We are from Toronto, Canada and we moved to Nicaragua over a year ago now and fell in love with the Caribbean Corn Islands, so we are just starting our own business offering vacations/retreats and our focus is the local community on the island so we are only working with locals hotels, restaurants, and all water excursions. We also work with local businesses on the island to build their brand and set up their business online and help them run a profitable business
    Right now we are targeting people that want to visit two small islands in the Caribbean that no one I know ever heard of them, but ideally, we want to start our tours from Managua and then end up on the Islands. I noticed that Nicaragua is not listed as one of your destination, is there an opportunity for us to partner together to offer tours in Nicaragua?

    Reply
    • Tony Carne#29

      July 31, 2017

      Hi Raneem,

      Great to hear your story. I actually went out to Little Corn in 2009 and was on the island when Hurricane Ida hit. Now that was one scary night I’ll never forget – but what a paradise and we’d love to do whatever we can to help. Hit the “Get in Touch” button above if you haven’t already. As we only do day tours currently – starting from Managua probably isn’t an option however.

      Reply
  • Jennifer#30

    August 2, 2017

    hi Tony. …
    pls am a tourism student in Ghana and I want to start up a tourism foundation. ….Where by I will tell people outside my country about mine and taking them across. ..pls how do I go about this

    Reply
  • Jo#31

    September 2, 2017

    Hi Tony
    Considering joining Urban Adventures, however I’m in a regional city in Victoria, Australia, population of around 100,000. We have a great history that has shaped our city and just curious if these tours are successful in smaller cities or if major cities are more of a focus?
    Regards
    Jo

    Reply
  • Alina Giurgiu#32

    September 3, 2017

    Hi Tony,
    I am Alina from Oradea ( NW Romania) I already sent an e-mail as well as filled up the online form. I will do my best to come to Prague and meet the team. It would be very nice to start working together. Best regards.

    Reply

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