Some of the most visited cities in the world – like Bangkok, London, New York, Rome, Venice, or Paris – welcome, each year, billions of tourists and travelers. And now that the economy is bouncing back and international tourism is getting back on its feet, it is undeniable that the opportunities for tour guides, travel operators, and hospitality businesses are booming.
At the same time, like never before, tourists are looking to find exclusive and authentic experiences that can help them truly immerse themselves in the local culture.
So, if you have been looking to change your career and follow your passions, there has never been a better time to launch your local tour guide business – no matter where you are from!
But what are the steps you need to take to establish a successful business? Here are some simple tips you can use to get started.
Evaluate the Market and Competition
Becoming a tour guide can feel like following your passions – but the reality of establishing a successful business can be more complicated than expected. That is why, before making an investment of time, money, and effort, it is essential to understand what to expect from future return on investment, profits, and chances of success.
The best way to do so is to evaluate the current local tourism market and the competition. To do so, you should look at the number of tourists setting foot in your town or in the neighborhood, the number of other tour guides, and alternative profit sources.
Make sure to take into consideration every aspect – including seasonality and your specific business niche – to have a clear picture of what to expect. This assessment will also tell you if it is worth going ahead and making an investment in your new business.
Decide on Your Business Name, Logo, and Identity
Once you have made sure that there is enough space in the local market for your business to thrive, it is time to define your tour guide business’s visual identity. From designing your logo to deciding on the colors and style of your brand, it is important not to leave any aspect to chance.
The same rules of businesses in other industries apply. Generally, you should opt for a brand name that is easy to remember and spell. Since most of your customers will be foreign tourists, you should also consider the benefits of choosing a name that is easy to spell and pronounce. Make sure your business’s name does not have unexpected meanings in other languages!
Take Care of the Legal Aspects
There is always one part of setting up a business that is not as fun or engaging as others. And, for most entrepreneurs, this part comes when it’s time to focus on the legal aspects. Firstly, business owners are required to choose and register their business’s name. Additionally, as a tour guide, you might need to obtain the relevant licenses and certifications.
What’s more, unless your tour guide business develops through virtual tools, you might need to invest in liability insurance and other forms of protection for your company. Once everything is set up, make sure to partner with an experienced accountant who can help you look after the financial aspects of your business, including filing taxes and keeping your profit and loss books in order.
Focus on Logistics
Compared to other types of businesses, setting up a tour guide company is relatively easy. However, there are challenges associated with managing clients that you will always have to deal with. When your business is still small, you might be able to start growing by taking phone books and reservations.
However, as your customer base begins to grow, you might start to struggle with tasks such as booking customers for your tours, managing cancellations, dealing with complaints, and leveraging reviews.
That is why you will need to start focusing on the logistics of running your business. For example, you might decide to invest in an online booking system, clarify the tour’s level of accessibility, and establish a cancellation policy.
Additionally, you will need to invest in improving your communication channels. While phone calls might work at first, the needs of your customers might vary. That is why you should be accessible via several channels, including emails, social media direct messages, and WhatsApp.
Design Your Tour and USP
Once all the admin that comes with setting up a business is taken care of, it is time to design your tour and define your unique value proposition. No matter whether you are starting the first tour in a not-so-touristy destination or you are competing with hundreds of tour guides in a popular hotspot, it all comes down to the tour you deliver and how you deliver it.
For example, after the pandemic, 61% of tourists have expressed their desire to start traveling more sustainably, choosing ethical destinations, opting for slow travel, and paying more for more environmentally-friendly accommodation and transportation options. They have also pledged to travel less often and shorten their trip distances.
As a tour guide, these statistics tell you a lot about upcoming trends. Focusing on your customers’ needs and wants, you might choose to create a sustainability-focused tour or create a fully immersive experience for your customers.
Find a Pricing Structure That Works for You
Not all tours are priced the same, and the price point you choose can significantly influence your customers’ expectations. For example, you might opt to design a premium tour that comes with a range of multi-sensorial experiences, such as food and wine tasting, sightseeing, and interactive stops.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find free walking tours. These are targeted to budget and younger travelers who are looking to get an introduction to a certain city or place. If you are opting for this alternative, platforms such as GuruWalks can help you establish your reputation and customer base.
Continue Working on Your Skillset
If you are looking to find all the qualities of a good tour guide, the list is nearly endless. Naturally, you will need to have a thorough understanding of the history, culture, and geography of the area your tour is based on. And, of course, you should be able to provide your audience with curiosities and answer their questions. But knowing the ins and outs of a certain destination isn’t enough to establish a successful tour guide business.
Indeed, you will need to have a range of complementary hard skills. These include first aid techniques and multilingual proficiency. What’s more, as a tour guide, providing top-notch customer service is essential!
Don’t forget that you are much more than just a tour guide – you are also a business owner. Because of this, you will also need to learn more about marketing, sales, accountancy, and other complementary aspects of running a business that can make a difference!
Market Your Tour
Whether you are working as part of an agency or you are running your own tour, you will need to market your offer. Firstly, you will require a custom website and a Google My Business account. This can help you become immediately more visible to customers looking for a tour in a certain location.
Another efficient strategy is to partner with other local businesses, such as bed and breakfasts or inns, restaurants, museums, and other organizations within the hospitality or tourism sector. This can help you offer a much more seamless experience to your customers. And, you can also win over customers from your partners around the town or city.
Don’t forget that, when it comes down to establishing a hospitality or travel business, it is all about the relationships and network you are able to grow and cultivate over time.
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