How to Start a Site Touring Business

1.

Create a business plan that outlines the specifics of your idea, the feasibility of your site-touring concept, your client market, industry competitors, and how you will manage your finances and control your operations. Business author Loral Langemeier states that this plan doesn't have to be long or complicated, "The exercise itself helps the entrepreneur get things going. We all know that if you have to explain something, it helps you to understand it better yourself."

2.

Build your business on a firm foundation. Decide how to structure your business: will it be a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, or corporation? Do you need an Employer Identification Number? Must you file your "doing business as" (dba) name? Are there any municipal licenses you need to acquire? Your decision on these matters will start your business on the right foot, and square away your tax, liability and other issues. Obtain business insurance. Site-touring requires leading people through public and private property, as well as possibly driving them around in a motor coach or other type of transportation. Protect your business by carrying the right kind of property, liability and other types of insurance.

3.

Recruit and train qualified guides. Both tourists and guide operators agree that the enthusiasm, knowledge and humor of the guide make or break the tour. Because the tour guide business corresponds with the highs and lows of the travel season, most tour guide staff will be part time. Despite this, do not scrimp on staff training or compensation. Well-informed and enthusiastic guides represent your business to clients and the public at large. Train your guides well, compensate them fairly and be sure to collect feedback regularly from tour participants to evaluate your staff's performance.

4.

Determine if you need a tour-guide operator's license. Some US cities, such as New Orleans, Washington DC, and New York, require a tour-guide license to ensure basic knowledge of city history and culture before operating a tour. Other cities, such as San Antonio and San Diego, offer optional certification by professional tour associations. Check with your city's local government, its Department of Consumer Affairs, or its Taxi Cab Bureau to see if a tour operator's license is required.

5.

Market and sell your tours. As a business start-up, guerrilla marketing will be your initial strategy. Placing flyers in local hotels, convention centers, airports, and other places where tourists gather can build awareness. Be sure to create a professional website, and network with businesses that complement your site touring company. In time, a long-term marketing and sales plan will expand and sustain your venture.

Whether you're looking to tour local sites or travel the globe, a site-touring business allows you to view the world or better appreciate the beauty and culture of your own town. A tour company can be theme-based, showcasing movie locations or wineries; eco/adventure based, showcasing wilderness sites; or profiling an area's history, culture, and attractions. Either way, be sure to employ sound business practices before embarking on your site-touring business.