If you have a love of cycling, some knowledge about touring and traveling, and business savvy, a bicycle touring company may be a perfect entrepreneurial fit for your passion. Though you can start with reasonably low cash costs, it will take some leg work to set up the relationships you need to make your business work. Start small and close to home, especially if you live in beautiful countryside or a good tourism destination.
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Determine who your target audience is and what your competition is offering. If there are already several touring companies in your area that focus on college students and backpackers, you may want to fulfill a market need by offering upscale packages that include stops at five-star hotels, or high-end bike equipment and challenging routes for professional athletes.
Create a business plan. Plan thoroughly in order to ensure before spending any money that your business model can be profitable. Calculate all of your startup expenses and your ongoing expenses for at least the first six months, and ensure that you are able to secure that much capital as well as cover your own living expenses. Your expenses will include at least legal and filing fees, bike equipment, van, the wages for a driver and any other tour guides, and marketing.
Set up your business. This includes filing for business licenses, opening a business bank account and credit card, and purchasing insurance. Speak to an attorney before you start taking customers. Cycling comes with risk, so you'll need to have the correct liability waivers to protect yourself legally in the event of any injuries on your tours. Check with an accountant to ensure you are charging and filing taxes correctly.
Set up your routes and touring relationships. Cycle each of the routes to determine whether it's a good idea to bring a tour group there and so you can speak knowledgeably about the conditions and difficulty level. Speak to the owners of hotels and bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and tourist destinations along each of your possible routes. Negotiate package deals and lower pricing for your touring company, as well as access to facilities or sightseeing opportunities not available to individual tourists.
Purchase or lease your equipment. You need at least enough bicycles and repair parts to handle your first tour group. You also need a van with mounted bike racks. Since you want to minimize your upfront costs and to make it easy to get out of that deal if your touring company doesn't take off, it's usually better to lease than to purchase.
Market your business. This may be as simple as gathering a group of your friends for the first tour and then getting them to blog and take photos of their experience. Get yourself listed on review sites and travel agencies, as well as bicycle enthusiast websites and newsletters. If you can, get local media or even big players such as the Travel Channel or Lonely Planet to accompany you on free tours.
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