If you’re a people person who can offer a native’s perspective of a town you know well, then becoming a self-employed tour guide or launching a tour guide business might be a great business venture for you. Many travelers are looking for ideas that are off the beaten path or differ from the same old tours that one might normally book. Some are looking for customized experiences or a unique experience to tell their friends. If you live in the right place, there’s always a market for a guided experience.
Why It’s a Good Idea
Anything could be a tour, and there’s a variety of niche segments you could offer. It could be guided culinary experiences, walking tours, sightseeing adventures, or haunted ghost historic tours. A tour can be based on what you love about your city, and in which you consider yourself an expert. You might have to work some weekends or evenings, but for the most part, you can develop your own schedule. You can even start on the side of a full-time job and ramp up slowly. With this industry, there’s no cap on the possibilities for business growth. You could eventually hire employees or even franchise to other cities.
Becoming a tour guide has relatively low overhead. You can start as minimally as just you and a good pair of walking shoes, but you’ll probably need a computer, phone, and internet connection for booking tours. Depending on your specialty and services, you might need a way to transport groups, or a printer for any special materials. In dealing with people, you’ll likely cross language barriers and travel hiccups. Sometimes tours have to cancel last minute, and other times you might need to figure out how to work through language barriers by partnering with translators. You can charge for hourly, half-day, or full-day tours, or even multiday experiences. To determine what you’ll charge, establish your budget, estimate your costs of living and debts, and incorporate taxes and transportation into the price. You might consider charging a deposit and building a cancellation clause into any agreements.
Do Your Research
When you get ready to launch, make sure to do your research. Consider taking a few tours in your area to get an idea of what they’re like, get some tips, and learn what you could offer that’s different. Another idea is to use a gig-based tour guide booking website like Airbnb Experience. These allow you to book single tours, which can help you perfect your craft and find what people are seeking before you launch on your own, or you could practice giving tours to visiting friends and family.
Marketing and Partnerships
As a tour guide, marketing your services is extremely important. You want to create a brand and develop a website and social media, and consider using social advertising and SEO practices to increase the visibility of your brand. You may also want to use an online booking tool to make it easy for clients. Partnerships are key to getting new clients. Partner and promote your business with travel agencies, hotels, transportation companies, museums, and other venues. For instance, bring the hotel front desk employees donuts or coffee to help build relationships with the people consistently responsible for giving out recommendations.
It’s also important to have positive customer satisfaction and ratings, because word-of-mouth and online reviews will drive a lot of your business. Always thank your tour participants, provide great customer service, and possibly provide a keepsake for people to take home like branded and printed brochures with photos and facts learned on the tour. When you’ve had a successful tour and a happy tour group, seek referrals and online reviews to help promote your business. If you decide to take the leap with this small business idea, one of the first things you want to do is write a business plan, create a budget, and establish a method for your accounting with an app like the QuickBooks Self-Employed App.