Eco-tourism is more than preserving nature. It’s about creating experiences that are not only enjoyable but also have a positive impact on the environment and the communities nearby.
This concept has always fascinated me, so I started my own eco-tourism business 2 years ago.
The result? A booming business doing something I love!
I want to share that knowledge with you and tell you exactly how to start your own eco-tourism business!
1) Figure out what exactly you want to do
Before you even think about starting a business, you need to know exactly what type of product or service you want to offer.
This can be different depending on what type of eco-tourism experience you want to offer, so let’s go over the main options:
- Adventure tourism
- Nature tourism
- Rural tourism
- Culture tourism
- Health and wellness tourism
- Culinary tourism
- Scientific tourism
- Spiritual tourism
- Sports tourism
- Sustainable tourism
- Wildlife tourism
- Remote/Isolated area tourism
- and many more…
The thing is, your options are endless here.
However, in order to be successful, you need to have a very clear vision of what exactly you want to offer.
You need to know that you are going to put in a lot of hard work and that it’s going to take some time before you start seeing results.
So if you don’t have one yet, make sure you know what your business is going to be about!
Only when you have a proper goal and a clear vision, you can actually go ahead and work hard towards it with lots of motivation.
2) Find an amazing name
This might sound silly, but it’s a really important step!
In fact, you can’t start marketing your business until you’ve chosen a name for it.
Naming your business is all about branding. You want your name to easily describe what your company does, and you want it to sound professional, unique, and memorable.
If you’re struggling to come up with a name, try these helpful tips:
Be descriptive but short
A name should be descriptive and easy to remember, but short!
This is important because you’ll have a lot of information on your website and marketing materials.
Don’t limit yourself
Instead of naming your business after the niche, look at the benefits you provide. What do your clients get out of your eco-tourism experience?
Focus on the benefits, not just the features
What are the benefits that your eco-tourism business provides? What experience can your clients expect? What problems do you solve?
Make sure your name is legally available
This is super important. You don’t want to spend the time and effort building your brand only to have to change it because your name is already taken!
The thing is, your name should be short and descriptive, not too limiting, but ideally also provide some keywords that have to do with your business.
However, anything catchy will work – don’t overthink it too much. It simply needs to be a name you like and want to use.
3) Get to know your competition
While it’s important to know what type of business you want to start, it’s also a good idea to get to know your competition.
Why? Because it’ll help you figure out what your niche is.
If you want to start an eco-tourism business, you’ll want to find out what other eco-tourism businesses do and how they operate.
This will help you define your own niche and figure out what makes you different from the rest.
You can start by making a list of all the eco-tourism businesses in your area.
This can be done using Google’s search tools. You can also use sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp to find nearby businesses.
When you’ve found a few eco-tourism businesses, dig deeper! Start by reading their websites. What do they do and how do they describe themselves?
Using your competition as inspiration helps you to see what clients seem to want and how your business can operate.
This is also important because it helps you figure out what makes you unique.
By seeing what all your competitors have in common, you can figure out how your business will be able to stand out from the rest.
4) Register your business and get all necessary licenses
Before you start marketing your business, make sure you have all the proper licenses and registrations.
Certain industries, like travel and tourism, have specific licensing requirements.
For example, in the US you have to have a tour guide license to lead group tours.
First, you’ll want to find out what licenses and permits you’ll need.
You can do this by visiting your local government website.
Next, you’ll want to register your business. This varies from country to country, but you can usually do it online.
To save time and money, try to do this as soon as you know what type of eco-tourism business you want to start.
It can take anywhere from a couple of days to several months to get all the necessary licenses and registrations.
This all depends on what kind of services you want to offer and how many people you want to take on as clients.
The good news is that once you’ve got the licenses and registrations, they’re all good for a long time.
Usually, you can ask your local government for help and support on these issues!
5) Design your tourism experience
It’s important to think about the design of your tourism experience from the very beginning.
It’s not just about the look of your website and social media pages, it’s also about the design of your actual product or experience.
First, think about the type of product you’d like to offer.
You can offer an experience that’s inherently eco-friendly, like a tour to a nearby wildlife sanctuary, or you can offer an eco-friendly version of a more traditional product, like a guided meditation tour.
Whatever product or service you decide on, make sure it’s eco-friendly, to fit your niche.
This step is important, you really want to plan out your experience properly, otherwise, it will turn out to be a flop.
The more time you spend on this, the more it will pay off in the long run.
6) Open a business bank account
Another important step in starting your own eco-tourism business is opening a business bank account.
This is where you’ll store your money and make all your business transactions.
Why do you need an account if you’re self-employed? Well, it’s much easier to track your income and expenses when everything is in one place.
Plus, having a business bank account gives you a professional look. It shows potential clients and partners that you’re a serious business owner!
To open a business bank account, you’ll need to visit a nearby branch and bring some documents with you.
These are usually:
- An ID – like a driver’s license or passport
- A business plan – This is a short summary of your business and what you plan to do with it. You can write it on the fly or use an online template.
- Proof of living (something with your address on it)
However, I would recommend calling your bank beforehand and asking what you will need to open a business bank account.
7) Don’t forget the liability insurance!
One of the things you’ll need to provide for your clients is liability insurance.
This protects your eco-tourism business if one of your clients is injured during their experience.
It’s a good idea to get liability insurance from the beginning.
If something happens, you don’t want to go without proper insurance, especially if someone sues you!
There are several types of liability insurance, so before you decide what type to get, make sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not.
You’ll also want to check what the policy limits are.
Trust me, I almost forgot the get insurance for my business, and even though injuries are fairly rare (thank god!), they still happen and they can make you bankrupt if you don’t have proper insurance.
The thing is, insurance is incredibly important in any aspect of life and business.
So don’t go without it!
8) Hire and train staff
If you’re only doing solo eco-tourism experiences, you might not need to hire staff.
But if you want to scale your business and offer group tours, you’ll probably need to hire guides, drivers, and tour managers.
You don’t want to be the one leading every tour!
This is not only dangerous for both you and your clients, but it’s also not sustainable.
You can’t do this every day, and you don’t want to anyway.
Hiring a tour guide to lead group tours and an assistant to help you organize and manage your business will help you scale your business and free up your time to focus on marketing.
Now: when you hire your staff, make sure that you hire good people.
Don’t just look at resumes, but also at their references.
If they have bad reviews, don’t hire them!
You should also do a background check on your staff.
For example, if you’re hiring a tour guide and you’re not sure if they’ve been convicted of a crime, you can Google them and see what comes up.
Now: most importantly, focus on your intuition during the interview process.
Do they seem like someone who is passionate about the environment and the animals?
Do they seem like someone who is a team player, or do they seem like they’re only thinking about themselves?
Will they love the job and be empathetic to your clients and their needs?
You want to hire someone who will work hard, not just for you and your business, but also for your clients.
A business is only as good as its employees, so no matter how great your business idea might be, you need great employees to make it work.
9) Marketing and PR
Now that you’ve started your own eco-tourism business and gotten all your ducks in a row, it’s time to start marketing!
Before you jump straight into it, make sure you have a solid marketing plan.
A good marketing plan includes a mix of different tactics that are designed to reach your target audience. These include:
Social media marketing
This is a great way to reach potential clients and start a conversation with them. Make sure to post interesting and relevant content that gets people excited about your eco-tourism business.
This is a longer-term strategy where you create and publish valuable and helpful content that your target audience will enjoy and love.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
This is a strategy that helps improve the visibility of your website on search engines, and more importantly, helps you rank higher on search results.
Either way, you can try to find a marketing manager if you aren’t sure how to do this.
Trust me, good marketing will pay off.
10) The launch
Now that you’ve got all these things in order, it’s time for the big launch!
You’re finally ready to launch your eco-tourism business, so what do you do?
First, decide on a date and time.
You want to choose a time that is convenient for you and your staff, but also something that works with the rest of your schedule.
Now, all you have to do is wait and let all your friends and family know about your new business venture!
Have fun with it
I know, this is a business, but don’t forget to have fun with it.
You’re going to work hard, so why not have some fun along the way?
That’s why it’s important to choose something you are passionate about – this will help you to keep up the fun in the long run!