How to Start a Hiking Tour Business

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Our guide on starting a hiking tour business covers all the essential information to help you decide if this business is a good match for you. Learn about the day-to-day activities of a hiking tour business owner, the typical target market, growth potential, startup costs, legal considerations, and more!

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Start a hiking tour business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your hiking tour business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your hiking tour business is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

STEP 5. Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8. Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Business Overview

From tourists to corporate retreats, nature lovers across the globe are always looking for insider knowledge regarding how and where to fully immerse themselves in their surroundings. Hiking tour companies guide these tourists, taking them into areas that might otherwise have been missed. From day hikes to week-long adventures, hiking tours have gained traction over the last decade, offering tourists the promise of nature and adventure.

Who is this business right for?

People-oriented entrepreneurs who possess a passion for nature and extensive knowledge of the surrounding area may enjoy running a hiking tour business. The more organized and knowledgeable one is about the area, the more creative and adventurous one can get with the types of tours offered.

What happens during a typical day at a hiking tour business?

A typical day at a hiking tour business starts with preparation. You will need to make sure all gear and any offered amenities are safely packed and ready to go. A successful business may have several hikes scheduled throughout the day, depending upon time of year and length of hiking expedition. In addition to walking a number of miles each day, business owners are responsible for keeping their guests safe, offering detailed information regarding nature found on the trail, and answering questions. When not on a hike, marketing and planning new expeditions will ensure a steady flow of business.

What is the target market?

The target market for your hiking tour business is tourists who are looking to immerse themselves in the local experience. Many business owners have found success targeting local organizations, both large and small. Many companies are now using hiking expeditions as team-building trips, so this is an excellent way to fill the calendar during slow tourist times.

How does a hiking tour business make money?

Hiking tour businesses generate income through ticket sales. While not required, many guests add gratuities at the end of their hike, which typically goes directly to the hiking guide.

What is the growth potential for a hiking tour business?

This type of business often remains on a small, local level, based on community attractions and knowledge of the area. Several organizations have realized success expanding globally. The key to success is knowing the area well and finding knowledgeable and honest guides in each area you wish to cover.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful hiking tour business?

Entrepreneurs who have realized long-term success in this business are creative problem solvers, able to adapt to any situation. Nature often has her own plans, so hiking guides may have to change routes, go off course entirely, or turn around when the situation calls for it. Extensive knowledge of the area is critical and one must be able to remain calm under pressure. While this career path brings you out into nature, it also requires behind-the-desk skills, such as business management, marketing, and accounting. If this is not your strong suit, consider taking a beginner’s business class or hiring a professional to handle administrative work.

What are the costs involved in opening a hiking tour business?

If operated from home, starting a hiking tour business can be done with $2,000 or less. You will need to launch a business website and additional marketing materials, such as business cards and brochures. When designing your website, consider investing in back-end booking software such as Xola, which allows tours to be booked and payments to be processed directly from your site. If you plan to offer trips that include food and drink or other special amenities, you’ll need additional investment money and a plan of action for implementing these ideas.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a hiking tour business?

Try not to do everything at once. When first starting out, offer several tours at specified times each day. As the business grows, get creative, offering different types of hikes, various amenities, etc. While your calendar won’t be filled right away, it will over time, as your brand starts gain recognition.

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Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a hiking tour business

Partnering with traveling organizations such as Airbnb, Viator, TripAdvisor, and Zola are an excellent way to get your name out in the traveling/tourist community. When guests express their satisfaction, ask that they write a review; this will help gain more visibility. Reach out to your local DMCs (Destination Management Consultants) and the community’s visitor's bureau, offering information regarding your services. Additionally, consider leaving your brochures at places tourists frequent, such as airports, hotels, and with travel agents. The most significant piece of marketing advice offered by all hiking tour business owners - use visually pleasing content. Have professional photos taken on your hikes so tourists see what you have to offer.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

While you won’t see a lot of return customers, it’s still important to reach out to past guests via email newsletter and social media. Notify them of new guided tours, staff additions, and special events. While they may not visit the area again, they will refer colleagues and friends who are. Set yourself apart from the competition by providing unique tours and surveying both locals and tourists to determine where the industry is lacking.

How and when to build a team

Initially, you will be able to guide the hiking tours yourself. As the business grows, however, you will want to take on new guides. Due to the nature of this business, it is critical that you carefully vet each new contract guide. In addition to a clean background, your employee should have extensive knowledge of the area and its history. While the training process is lengthy for many hiking tour businesses, your guides are the face of the company; make sure they represent your brand well.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Your fees will be determined by the services you offer. Some hiking tours last several days, while others are just a few hours. For example, Timberline Adventures offers a six day hike through the Adirondack Mountains. Pricing per person is $2,450, including lodging and food. A day hike through Glacier Gorge with Wildland Trekking ranges from $135-$235.

What are the ongoing expenses for a hiking tour business?

If you plan to only offer day hikes, your hiking tour business expenses will be minimal. Fuel costs, replacement gear, and marketing will represent your biggest expenses. Once you begin to hire additional guides, you will have additional paperwork and expenses. Hiring guides as independent contractors will keep payroll-related expenses at a minimum.

How much profit can a hiking tour business make?

Some hiking tour businesses are seasonal, limiting their income to only certain times of the year. Business owners in those regions report earnings of almost $55,000 annually. Those with year round tourists have even greater potential.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Increase your business’ earnings by establishing yourself as an industry leader. Write a book, create detailed maps, and well-thought-out community brochures. These items can be sold in local tourist spots and at the end of each tour for additional income.

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