This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme

Tips for Starting a Business in the Tourism Industry

DATE: 16/03/20


Thinking about launching your own tourism business but don’t know where to start?   We’ve brainstormed with some of our successful Go For It alumni to pull together some tips for getting started in the tourism industry.

Starting a business in the tourism industry


Find your niche

Take some time to really figure out what your business is. What it will offer? Is there a demand for this type of product or service?  Why is it different from anything else in the tourism industry? Fine-tuning your proposition is key. Knowing what it is that will make your new business attractive to customers is essential to cut through the competition.

Do your homework

Once you’ve established your business proposition, the next stop is to drill down into the competition. Locally, globally, who are your competitors? Which businesses are doing it right, or doing it wrong? Amass as much information as you can about the competition and you’ll find it informs you about your own decisions as you launch your business.  Thanks to review sites such as Trust Pilot and Trip Advisor as well as social media platforms it’s easy to gather to this information and see customer feedback for various business types and services.

At this stage, it’s a good time to suss out your local region and what support there is within the tourism industry. There are many regional networks and organisations that can act as support for your new business (Visit Belfast, Visit Derry for example) and it’s important to get involved with these at an early stage.

It’s all about your customers

Key to the success of any business is understanding not only who your customer is, but why they need your business. Figure out what problem you plan to solve for your customer and you’ll be on the right track. Once you’ve established your target audience, then it’s a question of how to connect with them, where can you find them, where can you reach them, and how can you ultimately grow your community.

What do you need?

You’re laying the foundations for your business now. What is it exactly you’ll need to get started? Do you need premises, tech support, suppliers? Flesh out every part of your supply chain and your day-to-day business running and you’ll soon see what you need to get started. Keeping things lean at the beginning is smart. Where possible, link with local suppliers to help with cost-saving and crucially to help you grow your grassroots community and brand reputation.

Where are your limitations?

Starting your own business is overwhelming. You’re expected to be the boss in every aspect of your company and that can be daunting. There are times to throw yourself in and to master all elements of your business but there are also times when it’s important to accept that you need help. If accounting is not your forte, find someone who is a pro. Be honest with what you are comfortable to take on and find solutions for the rest.

Focus on your business plan

The core of all successful businesses is a good business plan. Mapping out every aspect of your business from launch to scale, it will hold you accountable and will also provide credibility when you’re looking for funding, or embarking on partnerships. Spend time making sure your business plan is well thought through in all parts. Our Go For It Programme is here to help you in the process of business plan development. Our business advisors can answer your questions and help you every step of the way.

Contact us to find out more

What about funding?

It always comes down to money. How do you intend to support the business, to fund a launch, to cover the necessary overheads? The process of drafting your business plan and in working out your financial projections for the first two years of your business will be hugely helpful in clarifying your needs in this respect. Once you have this in hand, you will be much better prepared with a realistic expectation of the money it will take to get set up and keep going.

Read our Guide To Financial Support and the Go For It Programme to get started. 

Legal and regulatory requirements

Every location is different but each country and local district will have regulations and requirements attached to starting a business. In the tourism industry, accommodation is particularly regulated so it’s important to take some time to understand what exactly will be required of your business. Perhaps it’s paperwork, perhaps it’s a licence, either way, it’s a box you need to tick. Your business advisor through Go For It can help advise you on your legal requirements and how to keep yourself right in this regard.

Market, market, market

You have your idea in good shape, your foundations in place, your business plan and funding underway, now it’s time to think about getting the word out there. Marketing is where it’s at. You know your customers and where they are, you’ve done your research to find out where they spend time online and in life. Fine-tune your message, clearly state your call to action and get your brand out there.

Whether you choose print media, social media, video, advertising, outdoor, whatever you think fits your niche and your customers best, get a plan together.  It helps to create a calendar for yourself thinking about any key trends or seasons (Easter, Mother’s Day etc.) you can capitalize on and tailor your message to suit. Don’t forget about local resources which can help you to push your message out for free (What’s on NI etc). Set goals, check in on them and continually update and edit your plan, learning as you go once you see how your marketing takes shape.

Love what you’re doing

This one is true of any business. It really does help if you love what you’re doing. Passion is often the common denominator for successful business owners. That and determination. If you believe in your business, and you truly commit to it, it’s far easier to sell and to weather the ups and downs that are expected with any new small business.

Other useful links: for general news and information about the tourism industry in NI for a broad range of resources relevant to specific industries including tourism for pointers on how to get started on social media with your tourism business

Let us help

Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help.

Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.