How To Start A Tour Operator Business

tour operator business plan
Business Plans PDF

In this article we shall be discussing how you can start a tour operator business. This is a line business that is one of the most active components of the tourism and travel industry. Governments are usually big on promoting this industry which creates a workable operating environment for those looking to start businesses in it. There are quite a number of approaches to choose from that we shall discuss later on. The travel industry in itself is a multi-billion global industry so a tour business is a business worth venturing into. There are so many items that constitute what will be regarded a rewarding tour experience by clients. That is why is it extremely important to be in a position to multitask, negotiate, plan and execute impeccably. Let us get into some important knowledge areas pertaining to your journey to starting a tour operator business. Before doing that it is important to understand what a tour operator is since some people might have a misconception of what it is.

What Is A Tour Operator?

A tour operator is a business entity that formulates,structures and promotes holiday activities, usually bundling them together with several other related services. The norm is that services such as transportation, accommodation and meals amongst others are incorporated. This in essence connotes that a tour operator works in collaboration with numerous service providers or can offer the services themselves. That is a basic look at what a tour operator is. To add on we can just highlight some of the roles and responsibilities of a tour operator. A tour operator puts together travel itineraries, provides advisory insights and executes a tour package tailored to serve client needs. All the necessary components such as transport, accommodation and so on, will be sorted out by the tour operator. The client(s) simply makes the required payments and the tour operator does the rest.


There are 3 broad approaches that we are discussing herein. The underlying things a tour operator must know are trends in the travel and tourism industry. Know which places are a hotbed for tour lovers and have an up-to-date appreciation of the kind of tour packages clients would enjoy the most. These details will help inform your decision on which approach to employ. The first and obvious approach is being a domestic or local tour operator. This is basically providing tour packages in the country you dwell in.

This approach also branches out into many possible sub-approaches e.g. game park tours or boat cruises, and the like. Packages here can vary from routine daily tours to specially pre-packaged tours that can last a few days. So this means such a tour operator can be offering their services under another business entity – in a sort of partnership. Alternatively a business entity already owning or overseeing a place of interest can provide the tour services themselves without subcontracting a tour operator.

The second approach is being an outbound or foreign tour operator. Such a tour operator works on facilitating people to travel to and tour another country. The third approach one can opt for is called a direct sell tour operator. For this one you provide your tour services directly to the clients – there is no partnership or working under another business entity. For instance, you package a tour service where you do a city drive showing new people places of interest.

Make Sure You Have A Comprehensive Tour Operator Business Plan

The failure to plan is the beginning of business failure. The tour operator business plan must be clear and succinct enough to give your potential partners, clients and investors an overview of what your objectives are. At the same time, it must be detailed enough to explain the operations of the business that you propose. At the very minimum you need to have the following included in your tour operator business plan:

  1. The mission, vision and operational strategy
  2. Market Analysis And Customer Segmentation
  3. A business case showing that the business is financial viable and sustainable
  4. A marketing and customer care plan
  5. An organizational chart and human resource policy
  6. A three-year expansion outlook
  7. A risk and rewards Analysis

Market Research

This we can never overemphasise enough because it is paramount. Find out how best you can niche by finding out about market needs and market trends. You must know where the activity and influx is so that you know where to direct your efforts. There are a lot of tour operators in the industry so you must study and draw insights from how they conduct their businesses. From this exercise you can even notice loopholes or potential unattended markets that you can target. You will also get to learn about their service packages, their pricing, marketing strategies and the types of clients they serve. Market research must be done thoroughly so that you ultimately make informed decisions. It’s also essential that you have a detailed tour operator business plan.

Location And Premises

This will depend on the approach you are using and your target market. It is always important to be where the people are or close to where the people are. As a tour operator it is important to have an office through which people can reach you. The great thing about this is that you do not even need a high-end type of office which can be costly. Even with just a one-roomed office you can efficiently and effectively do all your clerical and administrative work. Your premises must be colourful, welcoming and well-branded. There are must at least be a cosy sitting area where clients can sit whilst waiting to be attended to.


This is variant and largely informed by a lot of factors e.g. approaches, types of services offered, target market and so forth. For some an office and office equipment can be enough whilst others might need a vehicle fleet and a whole lot more related to fleet management. So there is not that much to say here other than the fact that the type of equipment needed depends.

Staff And Management

This again depends on factors mentioned earlier under equipment. It is quite possible for a small tour operator business to function with at most just 5 people.

If you want to see your tour operator business thriving then you must have an excellent online presence. This is non-negotiable because the very sustainable existence of your business depends on it. Interestingly, some studies have shown that tour operators who have blog sites realize much more revenue. It further advised to also be on social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram. It is not just enough to register your presence online by just having a website or social media accounts. You must ensure you post regular and engaging content.



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