How to Start a Walking Tour Business

How to Start a Walking Tour Business

Welcome to the exciting world of walking tours, where every step is a story and each corner holds a new adventure!

If you’re passionate about your city’s history, culture, and hidden gems, starting a walking tour business might just be your calling.

Imagine leading a group of enthusiastic explorers through winding streets, sharing tales that bring the city to life, and creating memorable experiences for travelers and locals alike.

In this helpful guide, we’ll lace up our walking shoes and take you on a journey to discover the key steps to starting a successful walking tour business.

From uncovering the secrets of your locale to mastering the art of storytelling, we’ll guide you through the essentials of making your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

The Steps to Start Your Own Walking Tour Business

Starting a walking tour business involves several key steps, each crucial for creating a successful and sustainable venture.

Here’s a breakdown of these steps:

  1. Research and Market Analysis:
    • Begin by conducting thorough research on your area’s tourism market. Identify your target audience, study existing walking tours, and look for unique angles or untapped niches. Understand the demographics of your potential customers and what they are looking for in a walking tour.
  2. Develop Your Tour Concept:
    • Based on your research, create a unique concept for your walking tours. This could be themed around history, food, architecture, or even ghost stories. Ensure your tour offers something distinctive that sets it apart from others.
  3. Plan Your Route and Content:
    • Carefully plan the route for your walking tour, considering the distance, accessibility, and points of interest. Develop engaging content and narratives for each stop on your tour, making sure they are informative, entertaining, and relevant to your theme.
  4. Obtain Necessary Permits and Insurance:
    • Research and acquire any required permits or licenses to operate a walking tour in your area. Also, invest in liability insurance to protect your business and your customers.
  5. Set Pricing and Schedule:
    • Decide on the pricing structure for your tours. Consider factors like tour length, exclusivity, and market standards. Set a schedule that appeals to your target audience and is feasible for you.
  6. Create Marketing and Promotional Strategies:
    • Develop marketing plans to promote your walking tours. Utilize social media, local tourism websites, partnerships with local businesses, and other marketing channels. Creating attractive and informative brochures or a website can also be beneficial.
  7. Train Guides or Prepare to Lead Tours Yourself:
    • If you plan to lead tours yourself, hone your skills in storytelling and public speaking. If hiring guides, provide comprehensive training to ensure they accurately represent your brand and have the necessary knowledge and skills.
  8. Launch a Pilot Tour:
    • Before fully launching, conduct a pilot tour with friends, family, or local volunteers. Gather feedback to make any necessary adjustments to the route, content, or delivery.
  9. Collect and Utilize Feedback:
    • Description: After each tour, collect feedback from participants. Use this feedback to continually improve the tour experience. Positive reviews can also be used in your marketing efforts.
  10. Expand and Diversify:
    • As your business grows, consider expanding your tour offerings or diversifying into different themes or languages. This can help attract a wider range of customers and keep the business fresh and exciting.

Each of these steps is crucial in establishing a successful walking tour business, and they should be approached with thorough planning and a passion for providing exceptional experiences to your clients.

Let’s take a closer look at the main steps involved if you want to start a walking tour business.

Research and Market Analysis – Is There Demand For Walking Tours in Your Area?

Starting your walking tour business begins with a bit of research to see if there’s interest for such tours in your area.

Dive into the local tourism scene—think of it as getting to know your city all over again, but this time through the lens of visitor trends and popular spots.

Take a look at what other walking tour operators are doing: their themes, how they price their experiences, and what their customers are saying.

Imagine who you’ll be guiding around—could be globe-trotters, history lovers, or even locals wanting to rediscover their city. D

on’t forget to join the chatter on travel forums and social media, and maybe even run a quick survey to get a real feel for what people want in a walking tour.

And of course, keep an eye on those practicalities like local regulations.

Plan Out the Main Idea or Concept For Your Walking Tour

If you’ve determined that there’s interest in walking tours in your area, you can start planning out the tours you’ll be offering.

Think about what makes your city or area unique – maybe it’s the rich history, the unbeatable food scene, or perhaps ghostly legends that send shivers down your spine.

This is your chance to get creative and carve out a niche that’s distinctly yours.

Remember, the best tours tell a story, one that your guests will want to tell their friends about.

Consider blending themes or adding interactive elements to make your tours stand out.

And, most importantly, let your passion for your city shine through – it’s infectious and will turn your tours into memorable experiences for your guests.

Plan Your Route and Content

Mapping out your walking tour is like creating a magical path for your guests to follow.

Imagine yourself as the storyteller, weaving a route that’s just right in terms of distance, easy for everyone to stroll, and peppered with fascinating stops.

Each stop is a scene in your story, so pack them with content that’s not just informative, but also full of fun facts and narratives that stick.

Make sure everything ties in nicely with your tour theme – whether it’s historical tales, culinary delights, or hidden urban art.

It’s all about giving your guests an experience they’ll remember long after the walk is over!

Obtain Necessary Permits and Insurance

Before you lead your first group, there’s some homework to do – ensuring you’re all set with the right permits and walking tour insurance.

Think of this as your safety net.

Check out what your local area requires for running walking tours.

This might be specific permits or licenses that say, “Yes, you’re good to go!” And don’t forget about liability insurance. It’s like an invisible shield, protecting both your dream business and your wonderful customers.

A bit of paperwork now means peace of mind later!

Set Pricing and Schedule

Setting the right price and schedule for your tours is like solving a delightful puzzle.

You want the pieces to fit just right for your business and your customers.

Think about how long your tours will be, how exclusive or unique they are, and what’s typical for the market.

Then, tap into your audience’s shoes – when would they love to explore with you?

Early morning history walks, twilight food tours?

Your pricing and timing need to be as attractive as your tours themselves, fitting seamlessly into your guests’ plans and expectations.

After all, the best experiences are those that feel tailor-made!

Create Marketing and Promotional Strategies

Now that your walking tour is ready to roll, it’s time to shout it from the rooftops!

Dive into the world of marketing with a splash.

Make the most of social media – it’s like your digital megaphone, perfect for reaching eager explorers far and wide. Partner up with local businesses and tourism websites to spread the word in your community.

And don’t forget the charm of beautifully designed brochures or a snazzy website – they’re like your business’s welcoming smile, giving people a taste of the amazing experiences you offer.

The goal? Make sure when someone’s thinking walking tours, they’re thinking of you!

Train Guides or Prepare to Lead Tours Yourself

Whether you’re the star of the show or you’ve got a team of guides, it’s all about delivering stories that captivate.

If you’re leading the tours, brush up on your storytelling and public speaking skills – you’re not just a guide, you’re an entertainer, historian, and friend all rolled into one.

If you’ve got guides, train them to be mini-you’s: knowledgeable, engaging, and brimming with passion for your city.

They’re the face of your business, so you want them to shine just as brightly as you do.

Launch a Pilot Tour

Think of your pilot tour as your dress rehearsal.

Gather your friends, family, or local volunteers and take them on a journey they won’t forget.

This is your chance to see your tour through your guests’ eyes – and tweak it to perfection.

Every step, story, and stop is up for review.

The feedback you get here is golden, helping you smooth out any bumps before you welcome paying customers.

Collect and Utilize Feedback

After every tour, turn your guests’ thoughts into your secret weapon for success.

Every piece of feedback is a gem, helping you polish your tours until they shine.

And when you get those glowing reviews? Use them as your success stories in your marketing.

Let the world know that your tours aren’t just good – they’re “can’t-miss-this” fantastic!

Expand and Diversify

As your walking tour business grows, think about adding new routes to your map.

Maybe it’s time to explore different themes or even offer tours in another language.

This isn’t just about growth – it’s about keeping things fresh and exciting.

Your goal is to have guests coming back, eager to see what’s new.

Expanding and diversifying is like opening new doors, welcoming a whole new crowd of walking tour enthusiasts!

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Walking Tour Business?

There are minimal start-up costs for a walking tour business.

This is one of those businesses you can start for under $100 making it a great choice if you’re on a tight budget.

The main upfront costs include setting up your website, ordering business cards, and paying for any marketing.

Marketing costs would include local SEO, content creation, and building relevant citations. You would also need to manage your online reputation effectively.

You might have to upgrade your clothing and footwear if you’re planning on giving tours on your own.

Expect higher costs if you’re not able to do everything yourself and have to hire someone to help you.

How to Grow Your Walking Tour Business

walking tour in the old town

Promoting and Marketing Your Walking Tours

The best avenue for promoting and marketing your walking tours is through online digital marketing avenues.

Running a blog and being active on social media will give you the best ROI for your time as a new company. Once you’re established you can rely on word-of-mouth and better rankings on review sites for making bookings.

Until then, owners will have to be active in driving traffic to their websites and turning leads into customers.

Don’t forget to list your business on online tour booking websites. TripAdvisor, AirBnb Experiences, and Google Reviews are just some of the websites that come to mind.

Print out brochures to hand out. Bring them to local hotels and tourism offices. This is another simple and inexpensive marketing strategy.

Influencer marketing, such as giving free tours to travel bloggers and social media influencers, is great if you’re hoping to target a younger crowd.

How to Get Repeat Walking Tour Bookings

With a walking tour business you might be thinking that people are interested in one tour. After that why would they need another one – right?

This doesn’t have to be the case. Return guests are an easy way to increase your revenue while providing a unique experience for the traveler.

Offer a variety of tours. Consider including a food tour or a history tour in your rotation. This way people will have more than one option to choose from and could book two or more tours.

It’s important that the tours you’re giving are interesting, informative, and engaging. If your guests are happy they’re more likely to return on another tour. They also won’t mind leaving you a favorable review if asked.

When to Hire an Additional Guide?

When you first start your walking tour business you can run everything on your own. There’s no need to hire any additional employees while you’re trying to grow and build your company.

When you start making consistent tour bookings is the time to consider hiring someone to help you run everything. It’s up to you to decide which part of the business you want someone else to run.

For example, you can hire an additional guide to give tours or take on a social media/digital marketing firm to help get you more bookings.

Walking Tour Finances and Earning Potential

How Much Should Tours Cost?

Depending on the length and quality of the tours that you provide a suitable price point is between $20 and $60 per person.

There are a number of free walking tours that you might be competing with. Don’t compete on price and lower the price of your own tours. Instead, focus on providing value and giving the best possible tours in your city!

The sweet spot, in my opinion, is $30 to $50 per person. This is a reasonable amount for a tourist to spend for a local attraction.

For a 3+ hour tour this would be the best range in cost. You could also charge more for private tours or anything else that’s not typically included.

What Are The Typical Expenses?

The typical expenses for a travel business like this one are minimal.

The start-up costs will run between $100 and $1000. This would include getting a website designed, outsourcing content for your blog, getting social media set up, and coming up with your marketing plan.

After this initial investment your ongoing costs are only for marketing. This would include any digital or offline advertising that you’re doing.

Additional expenses for things like brochures, business cards, new clothing for giving tours, and everything else should be considered.

How Much Money Can You Make With a Walking Tour Business? Are They Profitable?

Assuming that you’re able to make bookings, successful walking tour businesses can earn a significant profit.

For example, let’s say you run two fully-booked tours each week. A small group size of 6 people spending $30 per tour results in $360 revenue per week.

In the event that your weekly costs are $60, you’re earning $300 in profit each week running your tour. That’s an additional $1,200 per month that you could be earning given this example.

The operating costs for this type of business are low. This means your revenue is mostly profit. The flexibility gives you the opportunity to run this business on your own terms and when you have the time.

Your Walking Tour Business Questions, Answered

sitting at a table on a food tour

Do You Need a License to Do a Walking Tour?

In some cities and countries you will definitely need a license if you want to offer walking tours. Even if you’re offering free walking tours, some places will require a tour guide license.

Make sure you look this up beforehand so that you’re not offering tours illegally. If you’re ever unsure, it doesn’t hurt to speak with a local lawyer or legal advisor.

How Do You Make a Good Walking Tour?

To make a good walking tour, start by following the helpful tips in this in-depth guide.

Some other helpful tips include sharing useful information and interesting facts, staying close to your participants so they can hear you, and taking them to the most interesting places in your local area.

The first few tours might be awkward, although you’ll become a better guide once you start getting more experience.

It doesn’t hurt to work for another walking tour company before starting your own, just so you can learn the roads.

How Long is a Walking Tour?

Generally, most walking tours in tourist areas will run between 2 and 5 hours. Any longer than this and you’re looking at more of a day tour.

Try to keep the walking tour length between 2 and 3 hours. This is the sweet spot for keeping people engaged and using your time most efficiently.

What’s the Daily Schedule Like With a Walking Tour Business?

At the beginning you’ll find that you’re only running a handful of tours each week. As a company starts to get more clients the frequency of these tour will grow and your daily schedule will start to fill up.

Established walking tour companies will have several tours being ran throughout each day. Eventually, you might have to consider taking on extra help to continue running tours.

Depending on the length of the tour you can expect to spend anywhere from 3 hours to 9 hours outdoors each day. As the business owner you can set your own hours and schedule depending on your availability and demand from tourists.

How Do Walking Tour Businesses Make Money?

There are two types of the walking tour business model.

Free tours are one way to run this business. These rely on gratuities from clients with visitors paying what they can afford.

Paid tours earn money from ticket sales as well as gratuities.

With paid tours you don’t have to worry about your income fluctuating although free tours tend to be more popular.

What is the Growth Potential For This Type of Business?

The growth potential depends on how popular your city is as a tourist destination and how willing you are to grow your business.

In a popular city with hundreds of thousands of visitors or more each year it’s possible to grow a walking tour business into a six-figure company.

Smaller cities still have plenty of growth potential and the possibility to offer a wider range of more specific tours.

The business growth also depends on your marketing, success with giving tours, and whether or not you hire additional guides.

Hey! I'm Alexander - the founder of Wizard of Tourism!

About the author

Alexander has been working with business in the travel and tourism industries since 2012. With over a decade of experience, Alexander and Wizard of Tourism strive to help those in the travel industry grow their business online.