Starting a tour company is a great way to bring your love of travel to life. You can share your passion with others and help make their dream vacations come true!
There are many types of tour businesses, so it's best to choose something you are passionate and knowledgeable about. Here's a few of the most popular tour companies to start:
- Food & Drink Tours
- Adventure & Sporting Tours
- Sightseeing & Historical Tours
- Shopping Tours
- and many more!
It's also important to determine what mode of transportation you want for your tour company, as this will determine the initial startup costs needed for your company.
To get started, find out if you need a license to operate in your state. Some states require tour companies to be licensed, while others do not. If you are required to be licensed, talk with the licensing agency to find out what steps must be taken before you can apply for that license.
Let's take a look at the success stories of some tour companies on how they started from zero to where they are now.
1. Urban Hiker SF ($45K/year)
Alexandra Kenin (from San Francisco, California, USA) started Urban Hiker SF over 9 years ago.
Hi all! My name is Alexandra Kenin and I run a tour business called Urban Hiker San Francisco, or Urban Hiker SF.
I’ve sold over 8,000 copies since the book came out in November 2016. While working on the book has been fun, and I’m working on a second book, Urban Trails East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, and other cities east of San Francisco), this is more of a branding play than a money maker. I’ve only made $5,000 total for the book for the countless hours I spent on it.
2. StructurInfo (ZigZag Road Trips) ($108K/year)
Claire Robinson (from Le Havre, Normandy, France) started StructurInfo (ZigZag Road Trips) almost 7 years ago.
Bonjour! My name is Claire Robinson; I am French, and I am the founder of StructurInfo. My main business is Travel Blogging. But I am not your typical travel blogger. I do not work with sponsors or tourism boards. I select and pay for my own trips. I will not share with you how ‘to be paid to travel’. However, I do travel a lot and enjoy writing about it :-)
Pre-quarantine, my revenue averaged $9,000 per month. And 2020 started with huge growth before all travels stopped. I am still working hard to deliver practical information because travel will start again, and I love it when customers share how much fun they had planned their trip with my guides and how wonderful their road trips were, for example in New Zealand:
3. Rayna Tours ($6M/year)
Manoj Tulsani (from Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates) started Rayna Tours over 16 years ago.
Manoj: Kamlesh Ramchandani and I (Manoj Tulsani) are the founders of Rayna Tours and Travels. Fueled by our deepest interest in travel and entrepreneurship, we kicked off our business journey a decade ago from a small travel counter inside a five-star hotel in Dubai.
Kamlesh: We’ve been in the industry for over a decade and have now become a niche provider of destination management services in Dubai. As a one-stop, customer-oriented business for all travel needs, our main organizational goal is to design and craft travel services and packages in such a way that each of them ideally responds to the dynamic market trends as well as our clients’ specific travel requirements. We offer our full suite of travel solutions through our wholly-owned Rayna Group.
4. Hobnail Trekking Co. ($21.6K/year)
Mark E. Johnson (from Nashville, Tennessee, USA) started Hobnail Trekking Co. over 5 years ago.
My name is Mark Johnson. In 2017, I launched Hobnail Trekking Co., an adventure travel company that specializes in treks to Mt. Everest Base Camp and other epic locales in the Himalayas, as perhaps the least qualified person on the planet to do so. By the end of 2019, we will have sent 23 Americans on this life-changing journey.
5. Arara Tour ($132K/year)
Tatev Manucharyan (from Yerevan, Armenia) started Arara Tour over 8 years ago.
I am Nune Tatunts from Yerevan, Armenia, a small landlocked country in the Caucasus region. The Caucasus is sandwiched between Russia, Turkey, and Iran. My background education is tourism. In 2014 I started my work in the Arara Tour. That time it was a 1 person company, an idea, founders, and me.
Well, 2020 was crucially bad for tourism because of COVID-19. While 2019 was quite fruitful, the company made around $13,000 in revenue per month. Doubling 2018’s revenue, which can be considered as a great success.
6. Front Desk USA ($120K/year)
Tom Shott (from North Wroughton, England, United Kingdom) started Front Desk USA over 23 years ago.
Front Desk USA is a full color customized map publication distributed at no charge to the hospitality (hotels) industry. With over 1,000 hotels currently using Front Desk USA maps nationwide and tens of thousands being viewed by hotel guests each day, Front Desk USA is the, “go-to” visitor information guide for hotels.
Front Desk USA maps is a unique business opportunity that operates primarily in the hospitality industry. Hotels love our maps because their guests need local information that is important to their visit. Restaurants love our maps because marketing directly to the hundreds of hotel guests each night is good for the bottom line. We rely on local representatives/publishers to promote the map, distribute the map and find sponsors for the mobile guide and printed versions of a larger map in specific areas. Publishers can make up to $10,000 a year on each map they publish. Multiple maps areas are common for our publishers with the average around five maps.
7. Delicious Denver Food Tours ($360K/year)
Jessica Baumgart (from Denver, Colorado, USA) started Delicious Denver Food Tours over 4 years ago.
Hi, I’m Jessica Baumgart, and in 2017 I founded Delicious Denver Food Tours to connect Denver locals and visitors to my city’s amazing food scene.
When I first launched the business, I was guiding every food tour myself. By month three, I had broken even and was turning a profit. This was also when I started hiring my first tour guide. Now 1.5 years into running the business, I manage a team of tour guides, and the business is producing $20,000/month in revenue.
8. Envi Adventures ($216K/year)
Corey Rust (from Portland, Oregon, USA) started Envi Adventures about 5 years ago.
If you have ever met me (which is pretty unlikely), then you probably learned relatively quickly that I’m really into airplanes. And by ‘really’ I mean borderline obsessed. My name is Corey Rust, and I own the Troutdale, Oregon based air tour business Envi Adventures.
Now, our best month was over $30,000 in revenue, and that is only in our second year. For a dumb guy like me, it makes me happy to know that I’m providing a service that people from all over the world are interested in. Not only that, but we have been able to generate a brand that people are beginning to recognize and connect with on a different level. Personally, I think that’s the most exciting part.
9. Wander New Mexico Food Tours ($240K/year)
Joe Griffith (from New Mexico, USA) started Wander New Mexico Food Tours over 6 years ago.
My name is Joe Griffith and I’m the founder and owner of Wander New Mexico Food Tours. We offering walking food tours of downtown Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Enchiladas, posole, and a Silver Coin margarita at Del Charro, a stop on our downtown walking food tour
10. Free Walking Tour Italia ($118K/year)
Alessandro Ferrari (from Modena) started Free Walking Tour Italia almost 4 years ago.
We are 3 young Italian travelers in love with eagerness to explore the world and their country who think that traveling should be allowed to everybody, despite how big the pocket is.
11. Under30Experiences ($3.6M/year)
Matt Wilson (from Austin, TX, USA) started Under30Experiences about 10 years ago.
I’m Matt Wilson and my co-founder Jared O’Toole and I own Under30Experiences, a travel company for people aged 21-35. We run small group travel excursions around the world to destinations including Costa Rica, Iceland, Thailand, Greece, and US National Parks.
We’ve been named on Inc Magazine’s list of the fastest-growing private companies in America and number 198 on Financial Times 1000 list of America's Fastest-Growing Companies. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were closing in on $5M in revenue and plan to be back to that level and more soon.
12. Secret Food Tours ($120K/year)
Nico Jacquart (from London) started Secret Food Tours over 9 years ago.
Hi, I’m Nico Jacquart and I’m the CEO and Co-founder of Secret Food Tours, a global food tour company with tours in more than 50 cities worldwide.
Our most popular tour is Paris Food Tour where you will taste some of the best chocolates and macarons in Paris, learn how to pick some traditional French cheeses and pair them with wine. You will also visit one of the nicest areas of Paris, Montmartre.
13. ToursByLocals ($45M/year)
The tours and experiences market is projected to be worth $183 billion this year, and today a startup that has made inroads into the space through bootstrapping is announcing its first outside investment. ToursByLocals — which sources local guides in some 162 countries, then helps tourists search and book them for either individual or small […]
Paul Melhus (from Vancouver, BC, Canada) started ToursByLocals over 13 years ago.
“A private tour with a local guide is the best way to experience a destination. Since our founding, we’ve focused on creating truly memorable private tour experiences for travelers, while helping local tour guides offer customizable tours in over 1,000 destinations globally,” said Melhus, the CEO of ToursByLocals, in a statement.
14. Intrepid Group ($280M/year)
James Thornton, CEO of the Melbourne, Australia-based Intrepid Group, believes that the company’s dedication to responsible tourism is one of the main drivers of its stunning growth in recent years.
Darrell Wade and Geoff (Manch) Manchester (from ) started Intrepid Group over 7 years ago.
Intrepid Group, which claims to be “the world’s largest provider of adventure travel experiences,” is riding a wave of robust growth, with a 17 percent increase in revenue in 2018 globally and 29 percent growth in North America. The increase brought the company’s global revenue in 2018 to $280 million.
15. Kiwi.com ($200M/year)
The largest online travel multinationals — Booking Holdings, Ctrip Group, Expedia Group, and TripAdvisor — are too powerful. They swallow all the Since its founding in 2012 in Brno, Czech Republic, the online travel agency Kiwi.com has grown quickly on only €1.5 million in funding.
Kiwi has grown fast without venture capital or marketing gimmicks. The online travel agency's story shows what it takes for a startup to scale today. Its story also reveals the long shadows cast by the mighty travel conglomerates.
16. RoundAbout Travel ($6M/year)
Last week I asked him a few questions I thought you might be interested in – specifically about his fast growth and success in a really competitive industry.
Amy and Mark Trim (from Adelaide SA, Australia) started RoundAbout Travel almost 14 years ago.
In that short time, he’s gone from a top seller at Flight Centre to starting his own online travel agency called RoundAbout Travel that turns over $6 million a year, even in the GFC climate. Not an easy feat.
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.