Last week we wrote about Starting a Fitness Business and this week we feature one of the most satisfying things to do in this world, in the opinion of many, is to travel. It is, as Mark Twain said, “...fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness... Broad wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth for all of one’s lifetime.” It is consistently one of our biggest regrets as we get on in life that we haven’t travelled enough. So why not start a business that revolves around it? Tourism is, it goes without saying, a multi-trillion pound industry worldwide. It benefits the country, the city/town and the business. If done right, it should benefit the tourists even more. But there are several things to consider before you decide to quit your day job and start waylaying naive tourists on the streets. Like, what actually is a tourist?
What is a tourist? In an ideal world, your business will cater for just about every single visitor’s needs, but as a place to start off, that idea is impractical. You’ll need to think about the different type of tourists there are, and what they will be looking for. There are three main kinds:
The conventional international traveller(s), looking to relax, explore a different culture and enjoy themselves.
The national traveller; somebody from another part of the country that wants to learn more about other regions.
The businesspeople. They in particular will want a very particular kind of treatment and environment whilst travelling.
Of course these groups can be broken down further still. The international traveller may be an older couple looking to sample the antiquity of your location. The national traveller may be five guys or girls in their early twenties looking for the best places to party. Or, it could be vice versa; so...
What can you offer?
Decide which area you think you would do better in. This means, examine your own expertise. Consider the type of town or city you’re thinking of starting the business in. Look at the local competition and see what they do and do not offer. A harsh truth you may have to face, is that if you live somewhere that offers nothing for tourists of any kind – you’re probably going to have to move to somewhere that does. Whichever area you decide on, go for it 100%. It is possible to mix and match, so long as you’re able to lay down some absolute rules regarding the amount of volume after certain times and the consequences for disrupting other groups stay. Don’t be afraid to turn away a party if they seem like it could be too much trouble; it is your business, and their disappointment is preferable to several official complaints from other guests. One of the most common concerns people have while travelling is security. Make it clear that staying with you will be a safe experience, and that the area you’re in is relatively harmless as well. After that, work on offering travel advice, a sense of home-away-from-home, good catering and strong local knowledge.
Where to start
Look at your national business websites and check if they offer any support for tourism businesses. The governmental tourism board as well should be able to give some help. Next, find a site for your company (whether it be a hostel, B&B or hotel) and make a complete list of everything within a reasonable distance that people may be interested in visiting, whether international traveller or regional business person. Compile the list into categories outlining which attractions will suit which type of tourist better. When you expand, look to running buses to these sites and guided tours. At all times, your goal is to give your guests the best possible time. Good business begets more business. Encourage people to leave honest feedback on the various rating sites that are, from personal experience, critical for tourists deciding where to stay. On that note, do your best to respond to any criticisms left on these websites where they offer constructive advice or outline definitive problems; and prove that they have been rectified. Do not, however, get sucked into arguments with obvious trolls.
The Nitty Gritty
As with any good business, you’ll need a solid business plan. Consider how your business will integrate with the transport sector (getting people to and from the airport), travel agents (will they recommend you to customers?) tour operators, tour guides, hospitality, events, and attractions. Know your personnel needs before you start and, very importantly, know how you’re going to market the business. Social networks, ads in the paper, listings in relevant directories and a good website are all musts.
Finally – the best advice we can give you is to travel yourself. Visit the far south or north of your own country, and see what other tourism companies do. Think how you can improve upon them given your own location. Go abroad to countries where you don’t speak the language and see how they cater for you. Only through that process can you really hope to have a full understanding of the needs of the traveller. We hope this helps you somewhat with the multitude of things to think about when starting a tourist business. Feel free to get in touch if you make it!
Check out the Startacus toolkit for a growing directory of all the business bits and bobs, links and articles you may need - whatever business you are looking to start.
If perhaps the idea of packing up in search of pastures new is a bit too adventuresome for you, then why not take a look at some of these other business guides that we have created.
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