How to Start a Tourism Business in BC

Curious about how to start a tourism business? British Columbia’s tourism industry is linked directly to over 133,000 jobs across our province. And, the good news is, business is currently booming. In 2017 alone over 20.6 million overnight visitors arrived. This represents an increase of 3.3 per cent over 2016’s figures, or 181,700 extra visitors.

Impact on the Local Economy

The importance of tourism to the BC economy can’t be overstated. In 2016, tourism contributed $17 billion to the provincial economy. This is higher than mining ($4.1 billion), forestry & logging ($2.0 billion), and agriculture & fishing ($1.5 billion).

With 2018 poised to be another record breaking year the business opportunities in this field have never been greater.

Industry Breakdown

BC’s tourism industry is comprised of over 18,000 businesses that have been classified into six categories including Accommodation, Transportation, Recreation & Entertainment, Travel Services, Food & Beverage and Retail.

Approximately 2,200 of these businesses are nature-based and seasonal. These range from surfing, to skiing/snowboarding, kayaking, mountain biking and many more. No matter what sector of the tourism or hospitality industry you’re trying to break into, there are some common tips on how to start a tourism business in BC.

How to Start a Tourism Business

Do Your Homework

Take the time to obtain the most current and accurate information available about the industry sector you are interested in. This involves looking carefully at your competition, how they price their product and how they market themselves. Try to think of ways you can do it better or more efficiently. Next, look into any permits, licenses or insurance you might need to procure. Is your business seasonal? If so, how do you plan to get through off-season without any income?

Prepare a Business Plan

Comfortable your idea is viable? It’s time to prepare a business plan. A business plan provides the roadmap for your business and is essential for making informed decisions. It should cover all aspects of your business including management structure, operations, staffing, risk analysis, marketing and sales. It’s a document you can use to convince financial institutions to lend to you. While it’s important to prepare this document, you must be open to changes along the way. The plan provides a roadmap, but you can always decide to take another route.

Insure Your Business

Nobody wants to envisage the worst-case scenario, which is why it’s tempting to skimp on paying for business insurance. What would happen if you suffered an expensive loss and didn’t have a policy in place? Could you bear the brunt of the cost and keep the lights on? It’s never been easier or cheaper to take out a business insurance policy. Enlisting the services of an insurance broker can guide you through the types of insurance you need to safeguard your business. The following are the most commonly required types of insurance for the tourism industry:

  • Commercial General Liability (CGL) – This insurance protects you and your business from claims made against you by third parties arising out of your activities or operation.
  • Property Insurance – This insurance covers losses from damage to, or destruction of, business property.
  • Accounts Receivable Insurance – An especially important insurance for the travel industry. It insures up to 90% of your receivables if a debtor can’t make payment due to insolvency or default.

Consider Sustainability

British Columbia is one of the most spectacular places on earth. For tourism to continue to flourish, it’s vital for businesses to be sustainable in their practices. This enhances the local communities and regions in which they are based. According to the United Nations Environment Program this type of tourism should do the following:

  • Make optimal use of environmental resources
  • Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, and
  • Ensure viable, long-term economic operations

Here to Help

No matter what stage of business, or what problem you face, Small Business BC offers a range of seminars and one-on-one advisory sessions to suit any business.

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