Business OverviewTourists today can choose from a staggering number of specialty tours. If you love travel and you can communicate your enthusiasm to others, then a specialty travel and tour business might be just the ticket for you. The advantages to this business are that you meet lots of interesting people and you get to travel frequently and investigate hotels, restaurants and all sorts of fascinating spots in the name of work. The main point to remember with specialty tours is that you must have a niche, a plan that's tailored to a specific type of person or group, like seniors, families with small children, women traveling alone, music lovers or chocolate fiends. You can conduct just about any type of tour you can dream up, but keep in mind that the closer you stick to home, the less expensive your start-up costs will be. If you live in an area that attracts visitors or business travelers, you can specialize in unusual tours like On the Town After Dark or Antiques Ahoy. You might go with backpacking or rafting adventure tours to outdoor areas close to home. Or you can sell worldwide adventures from your own armchair by advertising other companies' tours and taking commissions on sales. You can package overseas tours as well, but your start-up costs will be much higher. Keep in mind that industry regulations prevent you from writing airline tickets, but you can overcome this by establishing a relationship with a travel agency that will cut the tickets for you. Some will pay you a commission in the range of 10 percent; others will pay by referring clients to you. You must have a strong working knowledge of your tour terrain. This includes fluency in at least one language of the countries you'll travel to, up-to-date familiarity with hotels, restaurants and places of interest if you're doing cities, or trails and rivers if you're four-wheeling or rafting it, and of course local customs and currencies. You'll also need excellent people skills for dealing with clients of all types (as well as innkeepers and other assorted purveyors along your route), solid organizational abilities, and the ability to roll with the punches. And last, but definitely not least, you'll need terrific sales and marketing skills to sell your tours to customers.
The MarketYour customers will vary according to the type of tours you design. You can target everybody from mountain climbers to wheelchair-bound adventurers to museum junkies. Market your tours on the Internet with a Web site. Send your brochure to mailing lists of people who are already confirmed travelers (those who've already purchased tour packages) with similar interests. Advertise in national and special-interest publications. Get your tour written up in local publications. Donate a tour to be auctioned at a charity event in exchange for free advertising. Then get creative. If you've packaged an art tour, for instance, send brochures to faculties and students at art colleges and societies and the fine arts departments of universities.
Needed EquipmentThe only things you really need to get up and running are a computer system, Internet access, a fax machine and a phone.