Tourism can be the backbone of any economy that relies on the influx of foreign guests or local tourists. If you are located at a place that offers breathtaking scenery, good beaches, and great people, then the tourism business might just be the right one for you.
Do Research. Most tourism businesses market geographically local destinations. If your neighborhood is in the vicinity of a site with local or national historical significance, then there is probably already a tour operator open somewhere in the local downtown area. Your town will also likely have local ordinances and will have implemented state-wide laws governing the tourism industry. At this stage, you will need to gather information about several aspects of a tourism business in general.
Is This the First Time? If this is your first time starting a business, then you will probably need to take a visit to the US Small Business Administration web site. This government-funded site contains a lot of useful information on starting a small business. You can surf to it at http://www.sba.gov any time. Of special interest to you should be the section entitled "Small Business Planner." There are enough resource guides and FAQ's about setting up a business to get you started in a solid manner.
What to Sell? Given the guidance afforded by the information on the SBA site, you can now examine your local market. Are there any spots of historical significance? Are there any natural geographical features such as a waterfall, a lake or a network of caves in your county's jurisdiction? Has anyone of special literary, political or arts-related significance come from or lived in your town in the past? If you do not find anything like these in your area, do not lose heart.
Keep in mind that tourism has moved beyond the traditional concept of travel for business, pleasure or recreational purposes. Up and coming forms of tourism have made their appearance. Do a search on the term "Tourism" at http://www.wikipedia.org and you will find a pretty comprehensive list of these new forms of tourism. The point here is to open your mind to the possibilities of engaging in other forms of tourism destinations. Even if there is no local Niagara Falls in the area, even if no Thomas Jefferson or Lord Byron ever lived in your neighborhood, reading up on the Tourism entry on WikiPedia will get you looking at your area in a different light.
Once you have decided what you want your tourism business to sell to the world, the most critical stage of starting a tourism business is done. Now you can focus on what you've chosen when you sit down to iron out your business plan.
Tourism is All About Marketing. Having decided what to market, you will be able to determine what markets to cater to. Find out where those markets are, and how best to get their attention. If you find that the market for your tourism business is local, then you might need to open an office at a visible and accessible location in town.
Note that if you are a first-timer, it may be a good idea to start out as a tourist guide and develop connections with local tour operators. This is good since it will get you familiar with the local tourism industry, you can minimize overhead by working from home, and you will have relatively flexible work hours. If you happen to be tech-savvy, you can also try setting up a website of your own to advertise local tourist guide services via a photo gallery and information on your chosen tourism destination. Whether you open an office, work from home or set up an on-line presence, you need get your markets' attention.
Make Your Business Plan. Once you've done all these, filling in the information in the business setup guide on the SBA site will become easy as pie. The financial requirements of your tourism business will become clear as you follow the guides in the Small Business Planner section. Finally, do not disregard any local and state laws and ordinances regarding the tourism industry. Find out what they are, and always keep them in mind as you work on starting up your own tourism business.