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Anyone on here organize tours?

Old 12-21-03, 12:09 AM
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Anyone on here organize tours?

In the near future maybe, I'm thinking of starting my own bike tour business. I"m thinking of fully supported touring with guest using their own bikes and me and possible an employee for guides. I would like to know from anyone that has experiance in this field, what type of money is there in this? And what type of equipment will I need to get started? Thanks for any help guys...
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Old 12-21-03, 01:32 AM
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Not to be too crass, but if someone in that business IS on here, and they WERE making money hand-over-fist, what would be their incentive to share that info with you: to help you become a competitor??

Doesn' t compute for me, but maybe I'm just out in left field...
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Old 12-21-03, 10:36 AM
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Drop a PM to Nathank. He leads organized mountain bike tours in Europe (US citizen who lives in Germany), so he may have a better idea of what you're looking for in terms of money.

Personally, I would say start hitting the bricks and seeing if you have any interest from others to do a bike tour, and then quiz them on prices. I teach indoor cycling classes, and I've just suggested that I'd like to take some of them to Europe, and I've gotten 3 or 4 people responding positively each time I broach the subject.

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Old 12-21-03, 12:45 PM
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Well I live in Canada and I know that many of you are from the states so it's not like I would be competition anyway. I'm not asking for exact dollar amounts, just wondering if you could make a decent living doing it. Around where I live there is some beautiful cycling roads with very little traffic so I though that it would be perfect. Nobody else does tours around here so I thought it would work out well.
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Old 12-21-03, 12:53 PM
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Then I guess it's up to you.

Check online with a google search to find other Canadian bike tour companies and see what they charge and what's included. From there, it's just a matter of seeing if the demand is there. I'd start with the local bike stores in the area, and once you get your act together and see what other bike tour companies typically offer and put together a sample package with prices, then the next step would be to put together a simple brochure with price lists and see if you get any interested parties. If you don't, then you'll have to start thinking more globally, with the idea of pulling in the international travellers (USA), and that's going to take a whole marketing plan and strategy that's going to take more time and effort.

Or you could just go work for a bike tour company for a year or two and get the experience and learn how they do it, then start up your own company once you've quit-that could get you pretty far too.

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Old 12-21-03, 01:28 PM
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I owned/operated an adventure touring company some years ago.

I discussed it on the forums a year or two ago on a thread that sounded a lot like yours. Look it up for good reference info from a number of perspectives.
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Old 12-21-03, 01:29 PM
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Thanks for the advice, I will be doing a little research here soon. I'm thinking of doing something small scale this summer, just with some friends we are going to go on a 10 day tour with me leading, of course I won't be getting paid to lead, but at least I'm getting some experiance with that type of thing.
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Old 12-21-03, 03:04 PM
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I put together a tour for our local bike club to the Loire Valley and TdF this next July and I am glad I didn't attempt to do so for a profit. Even with hooking up with a professional tour company and telling them what we wanted only about 1 out of 10 interested parties has actually ponied up the funds to go. If we get a dozen I will be happy. You will be amazed at the "interest" of folks right up until the time they need to cough up the funds. Smartest (luckiest) thing I did was turn it over to a pro shortly after getting started. No liability that way.

BTW, we still have some open spots if you are interested in a couple of weeks in the Loire Valley and Paris during the last half of July. Or are you simply "interested"?
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Old 12-21-03, 05:40 PM
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Very true... If I ever decided to do a tour or organized trip of some sort, I'd advertise my butt off and require an up front payment of about a third of the total cost of the trip. Then a bit closer to the trip, I would require the second third, and just before the trip (within like 3 weeks, I'd require the final third). If they ponied up the cash, then you'd know they were serious.

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Old 12-21-03, 06:45 PM
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I ain't sharing my trade secrets!
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Old 12-21-03, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by ParamountScapin
Even with hooking up with a professional tour company and telling them what we wanted only about 1 out of 10 interested parties has actually ponied up the funds to go. If we get a dozen I will be happy. You will be amazed at the "interest" of folks right up until the time they need to cough up the funds.
Exactly! When you organize for friends, there are a lot of big talkers. Only one in thirty actually go for even a weekend event.

A good rule of thumb is to NOT count people in until they have actually paid in full. Even the biggest talkers will bug out on you.
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Old 12-27-03, 05:03 PM
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I don't have a tour company but here is some ideas of what I would look for in a tour company. In 2002 my son, a friend and I rode our bike down the oregon coast. It was great, we planned to do it again last summer, but would start in Canada. In the end the son and friend backed out. (we are supposed to go this coming summer)

At anyrate I wanted to still go but didn't want to go alone. However all the tour companies were pretty much the same. They all for the most part stayed at upscale motels, and had support vehicles. I really didn't want the support vehicles. To me half the adventure is carrying all your gear on your bike and camping out.



Anyway I don't know how much need there is for that type of touring but that is what I would have been interested in.

In any small start-up company it's all about finding a nitch.

MBD
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Old 01-01-04, 12:24 AM
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I am similarly interested in starting up a bike touring business. One of the things I would like to hear from people is what kind of things current tours do not presently offer that you would like to see. And what things about good trips have you liked the most?
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Old 01-01-04, 06:57 AM
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Having just organized a tour for the first time I will tell you the main thing that people don't like is the cost. We are doing 11 days in the Loire Valley this summer and then into Paris for the final of the TdF. The eleven days are costing $2405 plus airfare and the time in Paris is up to each individual. Of the 60+ folks who have said they are going we only have a dozen who will actually make the trip. The great majority that are not going state that cost is the reason. And out cost is considerably below the norm, if you shop around. The other big problem is getting the word out. Advertising is not free.
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Old 01-07-04, 11:09 AM
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I am leading six amputee cyclists 3000 miles across europe Starting mid April. It is a 55 day trip. It is a fully supported company sponsored event. The details never end. Costs are about $175.00 per day per person. That covers bikes clothing and equipment and room and board.since it is a sponsored trip there is no profit involved at all. I took a similar tour last summer across the country and realized then that there is not much room for profit in cycle touring
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Old 01-30-04, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by FLYBYU
In the near future maybe, I'm thinking of starting my own bike tour business. I"m thinking of fully supported touring with guest using their own bikes and me and possible an employee for guides. I would like to know from anyone that has experiance in this field, what type of money is there in this? And what type of equipment will I need to get started? Thanks for any help guys...

FLYBYU

Iíve also thought about operating a bicycle touring business and have done some detailed research. First thing you need to think about is why you want to operate a business like this. If it is just a way for you to ride your bike then itís not for you. You have to be prepared for all the work involved when your are not running a tour such as developing a brochure, establishing routes, arranging deals with B&B or hotels, answering potential client questions, hiring employees, etc. I suggest you read up on writing a business plan. The U.S. Governmentís Small Business Administration has a helpful website with a section on writing a business plan. Writing a business plan will help you answer a few questions like who is your potential client, what type of touring company do you envision having (low cost, luxury, camping, hoteling, weekends only, week long, experienced riders, couch potato riders, etc). The plan will also help with determining if the business has the potential of making money by forcing you to really think about operating cost and income. Some cost to think about are:

Start up Cost:
Brochures
Website
Attorney cost
Insurance
Advertising
Travel expenses
Office supplies (even if your house is your office)
Phone line (donít want to use your home phone Ė very unprofessional)


Tour Cost
Hotel
Food
Additional tours (museums, wineries, etc)
Guides (need at least 2 if group is over say 5 people)
Van? (for sagwagon)
Meals for guides
Taxes
Miscellaneous (things you canít foresee but always happen)


So who is going to be your client? How do you reach them? Why should they give you their hard earned money? Why is your company different? Why do they want to visit the area you lead tours? What are your cancellation policies? What size group do you plan to have? What is the minimum number of clients for a tour? Maximum? These are just some of the questions you need to ask. The more questions you ask yourself the better off you will be. You may realize after doing some reach that it isnít all you thought it might be or it may actually be exactly what you want to do. If it is great! Go for it!


Do some reach on the internet. There are 100ís of touring companies and if you read enough of their websites you can get a good idea of what is involved. I did this and I would keep a file on each company with information such as their prices, tour location, group size, how many tours they operated, website design, anything and everything I could think of I wrote down. Find out where they stay and then call the hotel and find out what rates the hotel charges. Does the hotel include breakfast? What are the cancellation policies of these other companies? Yours would probably about the same. How far do the other companies ride each day? What size groups do they run? How may guides? A quick calculation will give you client to guide ratio.

Go spend some money and take a tour with one of the companies that best fits the type of company you want to run. But donít just go as a vacation, look around, take notes, ask the other clients how the found this particular company (but be respectful Ė the people are there to vacation and not to be a marketing study subject).

Also look at companies that run similar type of tours but not bicycle related. There are many companies out there that run walking/hiking tours. Call/write them and ask them if they would be willing to answer a few questions. Be professional and prepared. Donít waste their time since they are trying to make a living also.

Basically research, research, research. A lot of it is out there for you to find even without asking anyone any questions. Once you have done the basic research then call or write other companies, post questions on the web, etc.

Without even asking any questions of other tour operators I was able to define a price range for my tours, develop a cancellation policy, price out the cost of 3000 brochures, estimate the cost of developing a website, estimate lodging cost, developed a list of potential customers (did a internet search for cycling clubs within 250 miles of my home), estimated the cost of renting a van to name a few.

You can do it and make some money if you treat it like a business and not just a way to ride your bike. Make the money first and then ride your bike when you are not working at your tour company.

Do your research first then ask questions. No one is going to say here is the formula for running a tour company but the will help answer specific questions and the only way to have those specific questions is to go off and do some initial research your self.

Good luck

PS After looking at the bicycle touring business I decided that it was not right for me at this time in my life (young family) but maybe down the road it will be. I will say this, I actually had fun doing the research. It was almost like a game, sort of like being a spy.
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