Travel Business 101: How To Start A Tour Company

You’ve always had an incurable case of the travel bug.

You love meeting new people, exploring off-the-beaten-path places, and even trying out a new language (much to the entertainment of the locals).

start a tour company

Now, you’ve decided to take your love of learning about other cultures — and sharing that knowledge with others — to a professional level. You’re ready to learn how to start a travel business that will let you see more of the world and bring home the bacon at the same time.

The only thing in your way?

You have no idea how to start a tour company.

Don’t worry — instead, keep on reading.

This post will show you how it’s done.

1. Take Care of the Licensing

The first thing you need to think about when you’re starting a tour company is the bureaucratic side of things.

This means that you’ll need to get in touch with the Department of Consumer Affairs to obtain a Tour Guide License in your city or state.

You’ll also need to consider whether you’d like to be a tour guide or a tour director. (Or, decide which one you need to hire for your company).

So, what’s the difference between the two?

As it turns out, a lot. A guide meets people at a specific location — say, the Statue of Liberty or the Flatiron Building. Usually, a guide will only stay with a group for a few hours while they tour the specific site.

A tour director has a lot more freedom.

They can actually plan trips to multiple destinations, handle the logistics of getting from one place to the next, take care of any emergencies, and of course, provide information about the sites.

You can receive professional training for either one, usually at the International Tour Management Institute.

Remember that, if you’re operating any kind of a vehicle on the tours, you’ll also need to get a commercial driver’s license.

If you’re touring internationally, there may be specific, country-based requirements and licenses. Make sure you get in touch with the proper authorities to keep everything in order.

2. Know What to Look for in Employees

Another essential thing you need to take into consideration when learning how to start a tour company?

The kinds of people you’d like to have working for you.

We’re not just talking about running background checks and making sure they have drivers licenses if needed – although of course, those things are important, too.

Instead, evaluate their overall social skills. Are they able to put people at ease? Improvise? Manage different and sometimes difficult personalities? What about their physical fitness? Can they handle the tougher treks that some clients may be interested in?

Are they familiar with local laws and customs, and how can they ensure that everyone on the tour follows them? How many languages do they speak? (This is especially key, as that will allow you to expand your business).

Finally, what is their educational background like?

Many a Master’s and even Doctoral student with a love of history, the arts, or even humanities has become an incredibly successful tour guide. Make sure to find people with the right qualifications.

3. Find Your Niche

Next, think about your niche as a local guide.

Perhaps you want to cater to a specific market — like those with limited mobility, older tourists, or even women on bachelorette parties.

Maybe you want to do something a bit more creative, like a ghost tour, a tour of famous mob murders, or even food and wine tours and agricultural tours.

Whatever your niche is, make sure it’s as specific as possible. The more outlandish or unexpected, the better off you’ll be. Remember, you can always add less remote destinations later as your business expands.

4. Get The Right Accessories

It’s easy to get so overwhelmed by the big picture that you forget about the little things — like the accessories you’ll need to make the tour go smoothly.

First, consider investing in wireless systems so that everyone on the tour can hear you clearly. (Check out to learn more about why wireless tour guide systems are the next big thing in travel).

Also, consider your uniform or how you’ll dress to ensure that your clients can find you if they get lost.

You should also think about things like headlamps for night tours, protective gear for dangerous, thrill-seeking destinations, and anything else specific to your niche.

5. Market Your Services

Finally, remember that a huge part of understanding how to start a tour guide business that’s successful is all about marketing.

Luckily, there are countless ways to do just that.

First of all, build up your website, fill it with photos of your past tours and destinations, and even consider starting your own travel blog.

Ask past customers to leave you reviews. Get on social media and connect with travel bugs and tourist boards within your chosen cities. Even consider working with travel influencers on social media, and ask them to promote your tour guide business.

Now You Know How to Start a Tour Company

We hope that this post has helped you to understand more about how to start a tour company that everyone will want to book.

Want to learn more about the types of business insurance you might need for your tour company? Need to fine-tune your marketing strategy and ensure you hire the right people to represent your brand?

We’ve got you covered.

Keep checking back with us for all the things you need to live the entrepreneurial life — whether you’re starting a tour company or an entirely different business venture.

Dragan Sutevski

Posted by Dragan Sutevski

Dragan Sutevski is a founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting, creating business excellence through innovative thinking. Get more from Dragan on Twitter. Contact Dragan