So You Think You Can Start an Adventure Travel Business: Now What?
Tips for anyone who wants to start an adventure business
Maybe it was when you hopped on the back of a motorbike, strapped on your helmet, and revved your way through Vietnam’s countryside. Or it could have been the time that you plummeted yourself off a bridge, relying on nothing but a mere rope to save yourself from the rushing river hundreds of meters below. It could have even been that stack of National Geographic magazines piled up in the corner of your apartment, taunting you every time you crossed paths with it.
Whatever it was, you have decided to pursue your dream and start an adventure travel business (opens in a new tab) . The only question is…now what?
You could dive into the industry head first, or you could give yourself a leg up and take a look at our tips and tricks for starting your own adventure travel business. (We recommend the latter.) Keep reading for ways to get started. If you’re looking for inspiration for your company, you should check out 101 Tour Ideas for Your Business (opens in a new tab) .
1. DEFINE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Before you start your own adventure business, you need to understand the nature of the business. According to Adventures in Good Company (opens in a new tab) , ‘Many people want to start travel companies because they love to be outdoors and/or they love to travel. There is a difference between loving those and wanting to be the guide responsible for other people loving those.’
To ease your transition from being a traveller to travel operator, make sure that you find a niche in the industry that you are passionate about. This will allow you to focus on creating a program that will excite you and thus, create a bridge of empathy between the operator (you) and the client.
2. KNOW YOUR ADVENTURE SERVICE INSIDE AND OUT
Now that you have defined the travelling niche you would like to focus on, get to know it! Be an expert on the service you are selling and the area that you are selling it in. Tung, the owner of XO tours (opens in a new tab) in Vietnam, has done exactly this: with his blog (opens in a new tab) , he gives his current and future clients a bounty of insider tips and tricks for when they visit Vietnam.
Once you have a solid understanding of the exact service you’re selling, make sure that you become the guinea pig for it: experience the service, go on the tour. Be the client. Dan Austin explains in his interview (opens in a new tab) with Austin Adventures that he never wants ‘to put guests on a trip unless one of us has run the program start to finish…sometimes we invite our alumni to join us the first time we run a trip with guests; we call these “First Ascents”. Typically, on a First Ascent, either Paul or I (or both) will have developed the trip and run it through at least once without guests, tweaking along the way.’
3. ASK ADVENTURE INDUSTRY LEADERS
It is never a bad idea to ask for advice from someone who has a successful adventure business, who has been in your shoes and made a success of themselves. Before you get completely immersed in a situation that you can’t get out of, ask the advice of leaders in the adventure industry that have perfected their craft. Sit down and do some research about who to contact and what to ask, and just start calling. You might hit some dead-ends, but more likely than not, people will want to help you out.
With at least three responses from industry leaders, you might just avoid some pitfalls that could have severely hindered your business’s success.
4. LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS’ INTERESTS
Once you’ve become an expert on your niche and are itching to expand, look to your customers for new ideas. What kind of services do they want? Where do they want to go? What do they want out of a tour? Not only will they prove to be a great resource for idea generation, but they will also help sell your business for you. During an interview with Business News Daily, Ciclismo Classico (opens in a new tab) ’s CEO and founder Lauren Hefferon said that ‘word of mouth is powerful in the adventure travel industry,’ estimating that 30 percent of her clients come through adventure travel clientele.
5. DEVELOP AN EFFECTIVE WEB PRESENCE
Hefferon mentions 30%, but where does the other 70% come from? This is where things get a bit tricky. Good marketing techniques play a huge role in increasing your clientele base. Your marketing campaign is guaranteed to be a time-consuming task. It will require money that you might not have. All the same, it is crucial that you invest in your company from the get-go.
That being said, there are many ways to spread awareness of your brand. Social media is an obvious yet effective way to target potential clients. Another integral strategy is to build a website that optimises sales-focused principles. Unfortunately, custom websites can cost you well over $10,000. Luckily, we can provide you with a cheaper option.
With Tourism Tiger, your company will benefit from a website that utilises an efficient and proven method to reach your target audience, which will in turn lead to increased sales — and it will cost much less than your typical web designer’s fee. Get in touch (opens in a new tab) if you’d like to learn more or chat to one of our experts.
6. PUT EMPHASIS ON QUALITY EVEN IF THAT REQUIRES SPENDING MORE MONEY
Not only should you listen to your customers, you should ensure that your customers leave with the impression that they have had the time of their lives. This means that you should go above and beyond their expectations. Does the trip coincide with one of your customer’s birthdays? Celebrate them with a gift related to the tour’s theme. Offering a brunch after a hot-air-balloon ride? Provide your guests with a homemade, locally sourced meal in a scenic location rather than taking them to a standard, possibly lacklustre, restaurant.
While this may prove to be more costly initially, it will create memorable experiences which could lead to repeat business and referrals — key factors to ensure a successful business, as we discussed in point 4.
7. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
One of the greatest risks in the travel adventure business is the exorbitant amount of variables. Unlike most other industries, the travel adventure sector is largely influenced by things like weather, forest fires, government closures, and regulations of destinations. In order to prevent disappointed customers who have invested time and money on the trip, conduct a ‘what if’ analysis of existing plans. Explore different variables that could impact the trip and prepare contingency plans for each and every possible outcome. Keep record of the contingency plans and continually evaluate and adjust the plan to ensure that your guest will leave with a smile even if Lady Luck has dealt you a bad hand.
Consider yourself equipped with a few ideas to start creating your own adventure tourism business. Stay tuned to the Tourism Tiger Blog (opens in a new tab) for more information about how to ensure that your business continues to be a flourishing success!
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Starting an Adventure Travel Business: a Beginner’s Guide
The travel industry is set to rebound in the U.S. this summer. According to an article from The New York Times, Americans are booking summer vacations in national parks and other vacation destinations.
If you have an entrepreneurial mindset (and have a heart for adventure), this possible resurgence in domestic tourism may be an opportunity for you to open up an adventure travel company, cater to these local tourists or travelers, and achieve some success.
Interested in pursuing this business venture? Here are a few suggestions to help you get started on the right foot:
Define Your Traveling Niche
If you’re planning on becoming an adventure tour operator, you should have a good grasp of the nature of the business. Many want to start a travel company simply because they love to travel to various destinations or like being outdoors. If you’re going to start an adventure business, you should be aware of the difference between loving the outdoors and guiding the tourists who love the outdoors.
An effective way to transition from a travel junkie to a travel operator is to search for a niche that you’d love to pursue. Your passion for this niche will encourage you to create an exciting tour program for your customers.
Know Your Adventure Travel Services Inside and Out
You need to have a solid understanding of the travel services you’re going to offer to your target market. If your main goal, for example, is to satisfy people’s thirst for fun, off-road action, establish an off-road adventure business.
Once you know the service you want to offer, give it a test run. Going back to the off-road adventure example, buy an all-terrain vehicle from a reliable ATV dealer and traverse a specific and public off-road path. You could also run a trip with a trusted friend or family member. Based on the feedback you receive along with your experience, develop a custom adventure trip that adrenaline junkies will surely love.
Seek Advice from Leaders in the Adventure Travel Industry
If you’re going to start a travel business of your own, get valuable advice from adventure travel operators who have achieved success in the industry. Sit down with them at lunch and ask how they honed their craft, what skills they learned along the way, and how they marketed their business to their target market. Getting valuable information from industry leaders will help you avoid pitfalls that may cause your company to lose customers and flop.
Listen to the Interests of Your Potential Customers
You could also check with prospective customers for possible adventure travel ideas. After all, they’ll be the ones signing up for your service. When figuring out the interests of your potential customers, conduct a short survey. A few of the questions you could ask are:
- What kinds of travel services do you want?
- What locations do you want to explore?
- What do you expect to get from this trip?
These four ideas will help you set up an adventure tourism business. By becoming an adventure tour operator, you could share your love of travel and help the domestic tourism industry bounce back from the global crisis.
The Rise of the Cool: Starting an Adventure Travel Company
Lauren Hefferon began her $3.5 million a year enterprise as a bicycle tour business. Ciclismo Classico was born with not much more than one woman’s passion to cycle and to travel. Mark Whitman from Cambridge Business School and co-founders started a mountain adventure company Kandoo Adventures with just one blog…
Do what you love and know
As an entrepreneur, you strive to turn your passion into a successful and lucrative business. It all starts with an idea that seems almost too incredible… too far to reach. But then, something you did or said, suddenly grabs the attention of your audience and things go wild. You start to quickly realize that you didn’t know jack about starting an adventure travel company.
Adventure tourism is an idea that many may not have considered, but those who have invested like Lauren Mark say that “the industry provides an inviting environment for entrepreneurs. Passion is key to cultivating a successful adventure tourism business…”.
They’ve researched it
The call for adventure or active travel seems to appeal to a definite group of audacious people. Those that want to take part in an industry catering to adventurous travelers know that the business is growing annually. According to a study completed by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the field has been on the incline for a few years now. The ATTA is comprised of over 550 tourism for adventure companies.
The sum of 300 companies responded to the survey. Of those who participated, 70 per cent report that they expect worldwide growth in 2016. In general, the adventure tourism business has the potential to gross billions of dollars. At the same time, you should keep in mind that most travel agencies are small. In addition, you should know that there’s more to starting an adventure travel company than just owning a phone and computer.
Starting an adventure travel company
Without a doubt, as the years move past, the number of adventure seekers will take note of this specialized vacation. With that being said, more destinations will also be included in the travel packages. As a result, travelers will see some diversification in the offerings.
What most business owners know is that diversifying your business will often increase profits. A business that was once limited, now has the ability to reach new markets and form loyal relationships. One way to do this is through social marketing and networking and with the help of progressive SEO procedures.
The outcomes of soliciting give-aways are tremendous. One can reach thousands of new customers and clientele this way. The ‘share’ button on social sites such as Twitter and Facebook can literally take your business to new heights. Also, implementing an interactive blog can boost ratings considerably along with customer confidence.
How much can you make?
Most pocket-sized companies net a comfortable salary, ranging in the low millions. While plenty adventure travel businesses are bantam commerce dealings, travel mongers, Frontiers Travel report year end sales in excess of $30 million. With travelers escaping Europe, South and North America, adventure tourism will likely experience a 30-50 per cent hike.
All businesses started with an idea to make a dream come true. Successful businesses are successful because of someone’s dedication and drive. Starting an adventure travel company is no different from the rest. Although it will not make you a millionaire overnight, the financial reports of even a small adventure travel business are nothing to sneeze at.