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A snorkeling business will typically sell or rent out various safety gear and snorkeling equipment to water-lovers of all ages. Businesses can also offer tours to their customers in addition to or instead of a physical store location.
Who is this business right for?
Owners should ideally have an inherent love of the water, so they can introduce their passion of exploration to new generations of snorkelers. They should also enjoy working with people who may not know very much about how to use the equipment.
What happens during a typical day at a snorkeling business?
Snorkeling businesses will spend a lot of time dealing with customers (e.g., giving tours, renting equipment, selling), but they’ll also need to account for payroll, marketing, and stocking equipment and gear.
What is the target market?
Tourists are typically the big market for snorkeling gear because they’ll rent equipment while they’re in town instead of buying their own. However, snorkeling businesses will get business from locals who either need to buy all-new gear or replace their equipment as it wears out.
How does a snorkeling business make money?
Snorkel businesses will charge a mark-up on the rentals, tours, and equipment they sell.
What is the growth potential for a snorkeling business?
With 11 million snorkelers in the US, it’s clear there’s a market for this industry. Snorkel businesses have to compete with a plethora of equipment that’s for sale online, but there's really no substitute for those who need to rent gear or take a tour. Most tourists won’t travel with their own gear (especially if they’re flying), so the growth potential can be significant for a business that both meets the demand and manages to impress their customers in a short amount of time.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful snorkeling business?
People who have experience with underwater activities will likely excel in this business. Working for a snorkeling business can make it easier to see how the logistics work so there are fewer surprises and shorter learning curve. Formal education is typically not required, though a general business degree may help an owner decide how and when to manage and potentially expand their business.
What are the costs involved in opening a snorkeling business?
Snorkeling businesses vary depending on what an entrepreneur wants to do. It’s possible to start giving tours for just a few thousand dollars if you're not renting out a formal space and if you comply with neighborhood regulations. For tours, you’ll just need the actual snorkeling gear plus first-aid equipment. If opening up a franchise, the cost will be dependent on the location. So a popular destination like Hawaii may charge up to $755,000 (or more) to open an established franchise.
What are the steps to start a snorkeling business?
Once you're ready to start your snorkeling business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your snorkeling business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your snorkeling business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Establish a 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.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a snorkeling business?
While it’s possible to treat a snorkeling business like every other retail establishment, the owner really should have an idea of what tourists are looking for when they come to town. Visiting the competition can provide insight into what customers are looking for as opposed to what they're actually getting. Owners can either try to improve upon their competitor's business model or offer a different type of experience they can't get anywhere else.
Owners can also consider becoming friendly with a snorkeling business located in a different part of the state or country. Without the threat of direct competition, a snorkeling professional may give tips about how they navigated the tricky waters of their first few years. Tourists generally want friendly experts who can take them out and show them wildlife without their having to become certified scuba divers. From manatees to dolphins to colorful reefs, each area has its own wonders that can be found below the surface. Appealing to a customer’s sense of wonder is often the first way to turn them onto an activity they may have never originally planned to do when on vacation.
You may also want to consider purchasing extra extra liability insurance when it comes to snorkeling due to a higher risk of injuries in the water. This is especially true at the beginning or if guides are trying to get used to a new tour or section of water. This additional precaution can reduce the financial repercussions of a potential lawsuit.
How to promote & market a snorkeling business
Social media and internet advertising will be good ways to market a snorkeling business. Owners should also pay extreme attention to review sites such as Yelp. Most tourists will be looking everything up on the fly, so it helps to have a truly stellar reputation. Paid ads on Google are excellent for businesses who need to kickstart their growth quickly. Organic content is better (and obviously, free), but most start-ups don't have a lot of time to spend months developing a content strategy. You can also consider radio and television ads to further spread the word.
Recommended: A website is essential for promoting your business and attracting customers. Weebly is a great tool.
How to keep customers coming back
Giving customers a truly memorable experience will ensure the survival of the business. Because many customers will be tourists who only visit the area once, it’s not realistic to try to get everyone to return. However, inventive tours, entertaining staff, and organized operations will be pivotal to impressing those who have contact with the business (even if they’re just asking for directions.)
How and when to build a team
A tour operator who wants to take tourists on their own snorkeling excursions may not need a team to help them. They can buy the equipment and set up a schedule that works for them. However, for those who are planning to own a retail space and boats, they’ll need to hire employees immediately. The best thing to do is to look for people with experience as well as the right attitude. Too often, tour guides will turn people off from snorkeling because their personalities aren't quite right for dealing with the public.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a snorkeling business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A snorkeling business is generally run out of a shop. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a snorkeling business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your snorkeling business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, snorkeling businesses should have their clients sign waivers.
How much can you charge customers?
Snorkeling rental gear is typically fairly affordable (about $10 per person.) If the business has boats, customers may spend up to $30 to $40 just to board the boat. If offering more complex or themed tours, then businesses could conceivably charge $50 or more. To get a sense of the going rates, check out your competitors' pricing before setting your own.
What are the ongoing expenses for a snorkeling business?
Snorkel businesses may have the following expenses:
- Mortgage or lease of retail space
- Boat maintenance/repairs
- Snorkel gear replacement
- Employee salaries
- Commercial insurance
How much profit can a snorkeling business make?
The overall scuba and snorkeling business is worth $11 billion in the US, but individual profits depend on location and scope of operations. There were just under 4.25 snorkelers a year in Florida alone though, so the profits can be considerable.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Snorkeling businesses may want to consider branching out to include scuba to serve a wider section of the community. It’s not unusual for people who love snorkeling to want to take it to the next level, so offering lessons and scuba tours would be the next logical step.