In this post I want to share with you guys a helpful guide on how to start your own walking tour business.
Today, we’re going to look at everything going on behind the scenes of a walking tour company. This is a great local travel business to start if you’re passionate about traveling, meeting new people, and sharing your knowledge.
Let’s just jump right into it!
An Overview of Starting Your Own Walking Tour Business
Tourism is on the rise around the world from small towns to major cities and everything in between. It’s likely that tourists are visiting destinations and attractions in your very own hometown!
This is a great market for entrepreneurs and those of you looking for a side hustle to tap into. of course you’re going to need a passion for travel and an extensive knowledge of your local area if you’re planning on giving your own tours.
Walking tours show tourists around and bring them to both popular and lesser-known attractions. Many tour companies offer generalized tours covering a wider area along with specialized tours covering specific neighborhoods.
Why Should You Start Offering Walking Tours?
Those of you that are passionate about where you live and love working with people are going to find running a walk into a business very enjoyable. Your day-to-day routine will consist solely of meeting travelers and sharing information about your city.
With this type of business you can dedicate either full-time or part-time hours. Tours can be offered on weekends or after work if you’re running this as an additional opportunity for income.
What’s the Daily Schedule Like With a Walking Tour Business?
At the beginning you’ll find that you’re only running a handful of tours each week. As a company starts to get more clients the frequency of these tour will grow and your daily schedule will start to fill up.
Established walking tour companies will have several tours being ran throughout each day. Eventually, you might have to consider taking on extra help to continue running tours.
Depending on the length of the tour you can expect to spend anywhere from 3 hours to 9 hours outdoors each day. As the business owner you can set your own hours and schedule depending on your availability and demand from tourists.
What’s the Target Market for Walking Tours?
Tourists looking for a personalized local experience are who you’re after.
Don’t forget that at the beginning you’re going to be getting a lot of your tour bookings from ranking your blog posts online.This is going to result people that are more tech-savvy and familiar with using the internet making bookings at first.
Otherwise, you’re going to be targeting travelers with a passion for history, architecture, and local cuisine. Social media can play a big role in helping get new clients regardless of their age group.
How Do Walking Tour Businesses Make Money?
There are two types of the walking tour business model.
Free tours are one way to run this business. These rely on gratuities from clients with visitors paying what they can afford.
Paid tours earn money from ticket sales as well as gratuities. With paid tours you don’t have to worry about your income fluctuating although free tours tend to be more popular.
What is the Growth Potential For This Type of Business?
The growth potential depends on how popular your city is as a tourist destination and how willing you are to grow your business.
In a popular city with hundreds of thousands of visitors or more each year it’s possible to grow a walking tour business into a six-figure company.
Smaller cities still have plenty of growth potential and the possibility to offer a wider range of more specific tours.
The business growth also depends on your marketing, success with giving tours, and whether or not you hire additional guides.
Getting Started: The First Steps to Starting Your Tour Company
What Are the Skills Needed to Build Your Own Successful Walking Tour Business?
Those of you planning to build your own walking tour business need to be familiar with and passionate about the area where you’re giving tours.
It’s not necessary to have spent your entire life living in the city. At the very least you should have a few years of living experience and some general knowledge of the local history.
For tours with a focus on history it’s a good idea to visit your local library and small museums. There is plenty of information, both online and in your community, that you’ll be able to use for your tour itinerary.
How Much Does it Cost to Open a Walking Tour Business?
There are minimal start-up costs for a walking tour business. This is one of those businesses you can start for under $100 making it a great choice if you’re on a tight budget.
The main upfront costs include setting up your website, ordering business cards, and paying for any marketing.
Marketing costs would include local SEO, content creation, and building relevant citations. You would also need to manage your online reputation effectively.
You might have to upgrade your clothing and footwear if you’re planning on giving tours on your own.
Expect higher costs if you’re not able to do everything yourself and have to hire someone to help you.
Alternatively, take a look at my “Walking Tour in a Box” package if you want to get started right away without all the trouble of setting everything up.
Quick Guide to Start a Walking Tour Business
Here’s a quick look at the different steps of setting up your walking tour business.
These steps will ensure that your business is following local laws.
Keep track of these tips so you can continue to use them as your business expands.
Step 1: Create a Clear Business Plan
You don’t need to spend weeks writing down a super-detailed business plan. Instead, spend a few hours coming up with a clear plan of how you want to start and run your tour business.
For example, try to calculate your start-up costs, consider your target market, or determine how many tours you’re going to need to run to be profitable. These are some of the different factors of starting your own business that you’ll want to consider.
Step 2: Form an LLC
Those of you wanting to go 100% with the official business route are going to want to establish a legal business entity. Local lawyers will be available to help you out. There are options for online legal support as well.
There are number of benefits to forming a legal business from liability issues to finances. Look into the pros and cons to see whether or not forming a legal business is something you’ll need to do before starting.
Step 3: Register Your Business for Taxes
Before offering any tours it’s important that you register for any local, regional, or federal taxes. A lawyer will be able to help you out with any relevant taxes that you need to take care of.
Alternatively, don’t forget to head online to see what you need to do in your own area before starting a small travel business.
Step 4: Accounting and Banking
At this point you can open a business bank account and set up business accounting.
Keep your walking tour finances separate from your personal finances. This helps with organization and results in more professional record-keeping.
When you’re just starting out there’s no need to hire an accountant. Keep track of everything and you’ll have no problem with your annual tax payments.
Step 5: Research and Obtain Licenses and Permits
In some countries and cities you will need a special license or permit to give walking tours. Research local laws beforehand and apply for any licenses or permits as necessary.
In Canada and the United States this shouldn’t be a problem. However, in Europe the walking tour industry is regulated so make sure to do your research.
It’s possible to get fined, or even have your business shut down, if you avoid getting the proper permits and licenses.
Step 6: Build Your Online Stronghold
With all of the business and technical stuff out of the way it’s finally time to start worrying about your website and social media.
Having a website is the best way to get new clients and customers when you’re just starting out.
Social media can also be an effective method of getting bookings if you’re a lesser-known tour company.
Running into difficulty with starting your website and setting up social media? I’d love to help you with that. Take a look at my services if there’s anything with your website or social media that you need help with!
How to Grow Your Tour Business
Promoting and Marketing Your Walking Tours
In my opinion, the best avenue for promoting and marketing your walking tours is through online digital marketing avenues.
Running a blog and being active on social media will give you the best ROI for your time as a new company. Once you’re established you can rely on word-of-mouth and better rankings on review sites for making bookings.
Until then, owners will have to be active in driving traffic to their websites and turning leads into customers.
Don’t forget to list your business on local and global travel websites. TripAdvisor, AirBnb Experiences, and Google Reviews are just some of the websites that come to mind.
Print out brochures to hand out. Bring them to local hotels and tourism offices. This is another simple and inexpensive marketing strategy.
Influencer marketing, such as giving free tours to travel bloggers and social media influencers, is great if you’re hoping to target a younger crowd.
How to Get Repeat Walking Tour Bookings
With a walking tour business you might be thinking that people are interested in one tour. After that why would they need another one – right?
This doesn’t have to be the case. Return guests are an easy way to increase your revenue while providing a unique experience for the traveler.
Offer a variety of tours. Consider including a food tour or a history tour in your rotation. This way people will have more than one option to choose from and could book two or more tours.
It’s important that the tours you’re giving are interesting, informative, and engaging. If your guests are happy they’re more likely to return on another tour. They also won’t mind leaving you a favorable review if asked.
When to Hire an Additional Guide?
When you first start your walking tour business you can run everything on your own. There’s no need to hire any additional employees while you’re trying to grow and build your company.
When you start making consistent tour bookings is the time to consider hiring someone to help you run everything. It’s up to you to decide which part of the business you want someone else to run.
For example, you can hire an additional guide to give tours or take on a social media/digital marketing firm to help get you more bookings.
Walking Tour Finances and Earning Potential
How Much Should Tours Cost?
Depending on the length and quality of the tours that you provide a suitable price point is between $20 and $60 per person.
There are a number of free walking tours that you might be competing with. Don’t compete on price and lower the price of your own tours. Instead, focus on providing value and giving the best possible tours in your city!
The sweet spot, in my opinion, is $30 to $50 per person. This is a reasonable amount for a tourist to spend for a local attraction.
For a 3+ hour tour this would be the best range in cost. You could also charge more for private tours or anything else that’s not typically included.
What Are The Typical Expenses?
The typical expenses for a travel business like this one are minimal.
The start-up costs will run between $100 and $1000. This would include getting a website designed, outsourcing content for your blog, getting social media set up, and coming up with your marketing plan.
After this initial investment your ongoing costs are only for marketing. This would include any digital or offline advertising that you’re doing.
Additional expenses for things like brochures, business cards, new clothing for giving tours, and everything else should be considered.
How Much Money Can You Make With a Walking Tour Business? Are They Profitable?
Assuming that you’re able to make bookings, successful walking tour businesses can earn a significant profit.
For example, let’s say you run two fully-booked tours each week. A small group size of 6 people spending $30 per tour results in $360 revenue per week.
In the event that your weekly costs are $60, you’re earning $300 in profit each week running your tour. That’s an additional $1,200 per month that you could be earning given this example.
The operating costs for this type of business are low. This means your revenue is mostly profit. The flexibility gives you the opportunity to run this business on your own terms and when you have the time.
How Can You Make More Money With Your Tour Business?
There are few ways to make more money with your own tourism based business.
Marketing online and display advertising have no limit to their effectiveness. You can promote your tours on Facebook, Google, Instagram, and other social platforms where you have access to your target audience.
More tours are going to result in higher revenue.
To take full advantage of your marketing strategies it’s imperative that you have a strong website that can convert your leads into bookings.
SEO and web design play a big role in the travel industry. This avenue of digital marketing is the best place to focus your efforts to grow your business and make more money.