The first steps to starting a new regional tourism venture are the hardest because chances are you will be doing it on your own and working out how this beast operates and how you can hang on long enough tomake a living out of it. You may be new to the region, and likely the industry. Even though you have skills in other areas, speaking brutally, in business the driving need is to start getting bookings as soon as possible, and get your confidence up whether you are a tour operator, accommodation provider or starting a new regional attraction.
Here are five basic steps to getting started as a regional tourism business:
1. Assess your risk appetite
Before you commit to a tourism venture and a location, know the risks. Ask yourself, what you are prepared to lose, and how you will manage things if the worst-case scenario does happen? What is your limit? It may be $5000, or $10,000, or nothing at all. Know your risk profile, talk to your partner and family and set a budget so you don't risk your home or the essentials, and know how much room you have to move and money to invest.
2. Do your research
Where you physically start your tourism business will have a massive impact on your success. Ideally you want to base in an emerging destination where there is untapped growth potential so you can capitalize on future interest. How do you know this? Start to research and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the area you are operating in. Starting a tourism business in an established community will give you a big head start.
3. Know what things cost
To be a successful in any business you want to make enough money to pay bills and make decent profits after all expenses are paid. You will need to manage the heck out of expenses to keep them down in the first two or three years and build this as an ongoing habit to grow profits sooner and afford to pay yourself, pay down debt, or invest elsewhere. Knowing what things cost as well as what your competitors are charging are two fundamental pieces of information for you to know and work out how much will it cost to run your business, how much might you be able to charge and therefore how much you can make.
4. Know your why
Knowing your 'why' and your reason for being in tourism, connecting with your passion is going to help you to sit down to all the other dull, hard and downright annoying things required to run a business. You will need to dig back to 'why' when you are neck deep in 'stuff no-one told you about' including learning all the new skills you have to master as a small business owner. Your 'why' might have nothing to do with grand designs on the universe. It could be to pay for your kid’s school fees, to even out the farm’s cash flow, because it’s preferable to host over being a landlord, or because someone in your family desperately needs a career change or fresh start. Whatever it is, knowing your ‘why’ will help you keep going in times of doubt. But you still need to keep track of costs, to make sure you can pay for your ‘why’.
Early on in your business journey you may face some resistance; this could be your own internal voices, or clearer expressions of disbelief from colleagues, parents, siblings, your children, spouse or friends. You will face early tests and challenges as you heed the call and commit to your new direction, and many find a mentor or guide is helpful at this stage to show you why this path can work for you and what it takes.
If you are in a region far from tourism industry networks or a qualified business mentor, my book, Booked Out! is your best guide. Use it to support you as you cross over the threshold from simply being a hobbyist or ‘just’ a home-based business to becoming a successful regional tourism operator.
Going through hurdles is normal and intentional, as it gets you ready for bigger challenges to come. Getting this far is a milestone that you should celebrate, when you can finally muster the energy to peel yourself from the couch!
Contact us, call Susan Lee