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 about 10 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) over 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 almost 17 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. ($60K/year)
Mark E. Johnson (from Nashville, Tennessee, USA) started Hobnail Trekking Co. almost 6 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 almost 9 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 almost 24 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 about 5 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 over 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 almost 7 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 over 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 over 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 almost 10 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 ($97.3M/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, British Columbia, Canada) started ToursByLocals over 14 years ago.
Paul Melhus is the CEO and founder of ToursByLocals, one of the top suppliers of private tours worldwide.
ToursByLocals offers exceptional travel experiences in more than 190 countries worldwide. It connects discerning travelers looking for customized private tours with handpicked tour guides.
This company now operates in more than 130 countries with 1700 carefully chosen tour guides.
They have provided their guide partners while serving more than 220,000 customers.
Read the full story on medium.com ➜
14. Intrepid Travel ($520M/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 Manchester (from Melbourne VIC, Australia) started Intrepid Travel almost 34 years ago.
In the late 1980s, Darrell and Geoff Manchester established Intrepid as a brand new way of exploring the world.
Intrepid Travel offers more than 1,150 trips on all seven continents that are sustainable and experience-rich.
They didn't set out to build the biggest purpose-led adventure travel brand in the world, but they have done so now, by generating $43 million in annual revenue.
They are the biggest adventure tour operator in the world, operating a network of 26 DMCs and a nonprofit foundation.
Since 2002, their nonprofit organization, The Intrepid Foundation, has raised over AUD 12 million for 135 charities worldwide.
Read the full story on forbes.com ➜
15. Kiwi.com ($432M/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.
Oliver Dlouhý (from Brno, Czech Republic) started Kiwi.com almost 11 years ago.
Oliver Dlouhý created Kiwi.com, which identifies inexpensive travel options that others cannot.
Kiwi.com is a top travel technology company with its global headquarters in the Czech Republic and more than 1,500 employees.
This company's cutting-edge Virtual Interlining algorithm enables users to combine flights on legacy and low-cost airlines into a single itinerary.
Customers can find better route options and prices on Kiwi.com by using its 2 billion daily price checks across 95% of all global flight content.
The website of Kiwi.com receives 100 million daily searches, and more than 50,000 seats are sold daily.
Watch the full interview on youtube.com ➜
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.
Mark and Amy Trim (from Norwood SA, Australia) started RoundAbout Travel over 14 years ago.
Mark and Amy Trim, life partners & business owners, founded RoundAbout Travel in 2008 as Australia's first round-the-world airfare specialist.
Their journey started in August 2008 when they first got their license amid the GFC. They sold about $900,000 in the first year and have since increased that to an annual turnover of over $6 million.
Their head office is in Norwood, South Australia, and they operate as a national online travel agency. RoundAbout Travel offers both economies & business class trips around the world.
Mark started this online travel company at 23, quitting his job as a travel agent. After 14 years, they have expanded to 5 brands and now have more than $50 million annual revenue.
Read the full story on blogtyrant.com ➜
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.