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  1. #1
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    Starting a Bike Touring Company

    Has anyone out there started, or thought of starting their own bike touring company. There seems to be a gap between budget and high end companies that is not filled. Interested in anyone's experience/comments.

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    Eric,

    I think you're right, there does seem to be room in the middle ground for a touring company.

    You have smaller groups doing local trips, and I have friends that go on these fully-supported tours, complete with airfare, bike rental, and a full support staff.

    See if your LBS' in the area would be willing to have their customers fill out a "simple" questionnaire so you can do some research on what bikers want from a tour.

    Keep it simple and your response rate will be higher (if it looks complex, they won't fill it out), but ask people where they would like to go, how much support they would prefer, and how much they would be willing to pay.

    Let us know what you fing out.

    Good Riding!

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    That very same thought recently popped into my mind, fueled by my love for biking and my desire to be my own employer...
    But surely it can't be done with all the competition from the big touring companies? At least in Europe, where I live, there's plenty of big competition on the block.
    Also, if you were to run your own company, would you actually be able to serve as a guide yourself? I'm guessing you'd be up to your neck in work, just keeping the business running...
    Ofcourse, perhaps eventually you could employ managers to do the real work for you, but you'd have to be pretty succesful..

    I'm guessing the best approach would be to start and own the company together with a friend, so you could share the burden of business management, leaving time for each to be a guide.

    What exactly is this gap between major operators and small companies? Surely you have to start out small in any case?
    Maybe getting a job as a guide with one of the big companies is a good alternative?

    This is an interesting thread, I hope it keeps going.

    Anyone out there have some answers? can it be done?

  4. #4
    The Flying Scot chewa's Avatar
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    Interestingly enough ART, my wife and I had thoughts along these lines (we've toured extensively in the low countries) and indeed, after our last tour I bought two domain names "bikeholland.com and bicycleholland.com".

    Our idea was for unsupported tours, guided or not, as most of the competition seems to be for supported tours. idea is for us to arrange travel and accomodation and (if necessary) bikes, and a rough route plan and leave riders to it.

    We hoped to get special rates from B&B's and small hotels.

    We've set up a page just raising the idea on bikeholland.com, asking for views and have had a couple of responses generated from search engines.

    have to say that it went on the back burner over winter but I'm now looking into insurance etc.

    As there is a ferry opening near us soon (Rosyth to Zebrugge) might be an ideal time to press on.

    I think initially i would like to lead a tour, but I'll have to work on my languages!
    plus je vois les hommes, plus j'admire les chiens

    1985 Custom built 531c Audax/fast tourer.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    I actually did start an adventure tour company several years ago.

    We did a lot of outdoor adventure stuff, but no bicycling.

    You CAN be successful at it, but you have to find a niche. Decide the type of people you want to work with and target their needs. This will keep it fun for you - so you don't end up escorting a bunch of 9-year-olds or some other group far from your dreams.

    The thing I found is that the income can be "OK", but limited. I looked down the road, did some multiplication, estimated realistic goals, and decided that there wasn't enough money for my long-term financial goals.

    Maybe your vision is bigger than mine, or maybe your financial goals/needs are different than mine and a tour company can be a real winner for you.

    The first step is to get a quote for liability insurance. You can't afford to start without it and it is often too expensive to start with. Liability insurance is a real drag for the small business start-up.

    Good luck!

    Mike
    Mike

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    The Flying Scot chewa's Avatar
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    Had to say Mike, that was my thinking too. very much saw it as an additional rather than sole income (eg during holiday periods - to combine cycling with meeting others0
    plus je vois les hommes, plus j'admire les chiens

    1985 Custom built 531c Audax/fast tourer.
    1964 Flying Scot Continental
    1995 Cinelli Supercorsa
    1980s Holdsworth Mistral fixed
    2005 Dahon Speed 6 (folder)
    (YES I LIKE STEEL)
    2008 Viking Saratoga tandem
    2008 Micmo Sirocco Hybrid (aluminium!)
    2012 BTwin Rockrider 8.1

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    ''Interestingly enough ART, my wife and I had thoughts along these lines (we've toured extensively in the low countries) and indeed, after our last tour I bought two domain names "bikeholland.com and bicycleholland.com". ''

    People go on holiday in the Netherlands for either dope or culture, but cycling??

    I suppose if flat, repetitive scenery and terrible weather is your thing, holland your place but I honestly can't imagine who in their right minds would ever want to tour this place....!

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    Donating member Richard D's Avatar
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    Originally posted by art vandelay


    People go on holiday in the Netherlands for either dope or culture, but cycling??

    I suppose if flat, repetitive scenery and terrible weather is your thing, holland your place but I honestly can't imagine who in their right minds would ever want to tour this place....!
    ART - When you live in the UK you get used to less than favourable weather, and whether it's true or not, UK cyclists tend to have a vision of the Netherlands as an enlightened cycling paradise

    Richard
    Currently riding an MTB with a split personality - commuting, touring, riding for the sake of riding, on or off road :)

  9. #9
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Originally posted by art vandelay


    People go on holiday in the Netherlands for either dope or culture, but cycling??

    I suppose if flat, repetitive scenery and terrible weather is your thing, holland your place but I honestly can't imagine who in their right minds would ever want to tour this place....!
    I dunno, when I think of Holland, I think of windmills, bicycles and guys with their fingers in dyckes. Of course, in the USA, we have all of those things except for the windmills.

    Still, I would like to bicycle in Holland some day. I always hope that my travels get me close enough and with enough free-time to warrant a visit, but it hasn't happened yet.

    Surely there are others who have dreams of bicycling in Holland. There must be a market for it. The idea of touring without mountains doesn't sound all that bad.
    Mike

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    Thanks for the input. A questionnaire is a good idea, but to the LSB??? Sorry don't know that TLA (three letter acronym).

    Art:
    - The size of the company would be small to start, myself and my significant other. I can see having to have another person working after things take off.
    - The "gap" that I was talking about are the two camps of companies. The few American companies where clients pay $450+ US per day for a 4-12 daylong trip. There a few well-established companies that pull this off. I know several people who work for one of these companies. They offer great service and well run trips. Contrast the red carpet treatment with the other local companies I've seen. $750 Canadian for a week long trip to the Baja. These companies take your gear for you in the van, book some cheap accommodations and the price reflects it. I've talked to satisfied clients from these trips. It’s just what you’re after and if you see it as good value.
    - As a side note, an ex- Canadian pro racer charges almost $1000 per day for a European trip. Mind you his name is part of the price tag.
    Where I see room is in between these two. Offer the same level of service and instead of staying at the $300 US per night resort, stay at the $100 US place. One trip is for the investment baker from NYC and the other is for the time strapped person who wants a reasonably priced trip. My concern is, wouldn’t these people just book everything themselves, and save the cash? The whole marketing concept is intimidating. Maybe a college course would help.
    Mike:
    - One of the other major concerns is toiling away for limited financial gain. The chance to acquire capital while running a bike touring company seems limited. Bike touring is a means to travel to different places. This precludes investing into a house/B & B/Inn to complement the adventure company. Just a thought on my part would be instead of paying all the hotel bills for every trip, you base the trips from a central place. Then you pay a mortgage and in 10 to 20 years it's yours. That is a possibility where I live. The area is an undiscovered Mecca for every sort of cycling you can imagine. As well as kayaking, skiing, climbing etc. One could envision a "Multi-sport" holiday based out of a common base.
    - Insurance is an issue. On first investigation it seemed to be in the $1000 per year range. Seems reasonable for $2 million liability.

    I'd like to hear what you think. Thanks.


    "Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail" Bobby Julich - Tour of Spain 199?

  11. #11
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    ericthehalfab:

    I did the home-base thing, except I used a local bed-and-breakfast because I couldn't justify owning and running a lodge for my sporatic tour needs. That arrangement worked out fine.

    I discussed my plans in detail with the B&B owner and they were a HUGE help for most of the lodging and food logistics.

    If you want to run the tour business in order to cover your costs of touring whith your group, forget it. You will be too busy to enjoy yourself. In fact, I recommend you hire some very qualified people/persons to lead the group while you travel by car. $hit WILL happen. Business is business.

    You might be able to make enough money at the tour business to pay for YOUR OWN vacations - without the group. This would be ideal.

    How much you can charge will depend entirely on the group to which you cater. I suggest you pick the type/age of people you want to work with and then design your package to meet their interest and financial needs.

    By the way, the very best job I ever had in my entire life was at the ripe age of 23 years old. I was responsible for organizing and leading tours for a group of 120 foreign students from international female-only universities. Man, was that a blast. If I were to do it all over again, that is the target market I would choose.
    Mike

  12. #12
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    By the way, if people tell you that your business idea can't possibly succeed, it is a sure sign that you will most likely succeed.

    Your passions will push you toward success. However, make sure your business makes a profit. Use your passion and enthusiasm for fuel, not as blinders.
    Mike

  13. #13
    The Flying Scot chewa's Avatar
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    Originally posted by art vandelay
    ''Interestingly enough ART, my wife and I had thoughts along these lines (we've toured extensively in the low countries) and indeed, after our last tour I bought two domain names "bikeholland.com and bicycleholland.com". ''

    People go on holiday in the Netherlands for either dope or culture, but cycling??

    I suppose if flat, repetitive scenery and terrible weather is your thing, holland your place but I honestly can't imagine who in their right minds would ever want to tour this place....!
    What about the Veluwe? Also, as the country is quite compact, you don't get long stretches with no change. It's also very safe and an ideal beginners touring country. The people are friendly and if you can't manage dutch (to my shame I can't---yet, their English is good). Accommodation is good quality and clean.

    And you go into the neighbouring countries easily.
    plus je vois les hommes, plus j'admire les chiens

    1985 Custom built 531c Audax/fast tourer.
    1964 Flying Scot Continental
    1995 Cinelli Supercorsa
    1980s Holdsworth Mistral fixed
    2005 Dahon Speed 6 (folder)
    (YES I LIKE STEEL)
    2008 Viking Saratoga tandem
    2008 Micmo Sirocco Hybrid (aluminium!)
    2012 BTwin Rockrider 8.1

  14. #14
    Marathon Cyclist MediaCreations's Avatar
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    Originally posted by ericthehalfab
    Thanks for the input. A questionnaire is a good idea, but to the LSB??? Sorry don't know that TLA (three letter acronym).
    It was LBS. Local Bike Shop.

    Cheers

  15. #15
    Senior Member swekarl's Avatar
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    Originally posted by art vandelay
    People go on holiday in the Netherlands for either dope or culture, but cycling??
    Oh no, my idyll is crushed! My view of the world has so far been that the Netherlands are bicycle paradise and Belgium bicycle hell, for some reason... But those are just rumours, I havent biked there myself. But my sister lives in Nijmegen, at least something...

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    I performed a search and found this topic. I was wondering if anyone else has any information concerning starting a tour company. I'm interested in starting one for trips in Europe and I'm looking for any information any one can provide that is specific to bicycle tour companies or general business information concerning tourism. Any books? Websites? Organizations? Any experience you may have that you might want to share?

    Thank you for reading my post.
    Doug

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