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. 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.)
1. Define your expectations.
Before you start your business, you need to understand the nature of the business – after all, it is an actual business. According to Adventures in Good Company, “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 traveler 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 service inside and out.
Now that you have defined the travelling niche that 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 in Vietnam, has done exactly this: with his blog, he gives his current and future clients a bounty of insider tips and tricks for Vietnam.
Once you have a solid understanding of what it is that you are actually going to sell, make sure that you become the guinea pig. Experience the service, go on the tour. Be the client. Dan Austin explains in his interview 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 industry leaders.
It is never a bad idea to ask for advice from someone who has been in your shoes, especially when they have come out successful on the other side. This couldn’t be more true for the tourism industry. Before you get completely immersed in a situation that you can’t get out of, ask the advice of leaders in the industry that have perfected their craft. Sit down, 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’ success.
4. Listen your customers’ interests.
Once you have become an expert on your niche and are itching to expand, look no further than 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’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 clienteles. Another integral strategy is to build a website that optimizes sales-focused principles. Unfortunately, custom websites can cost you well over $10,000. Luckily, we can provide you with a cheaper option.
With TourismTiger, your company will benefit from a website that utilizes 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.
6. Put emphasis on quality even if it 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 post-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 lackluster 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.
7. Expect the unexpected.
One of the greatest risks in the travel adventure business is the exorbitant amount of variables. Unlike other industries, the travel adventure business 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 achieving your dreams. Stay tuned for more information about how to ensure that your business continues to be a flourishing success!
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