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How to Start an Outdoor Tour Company


by Jenny Gruhn, Owner, Asheville Hiking Tours

Launching Asheville Hiking Tours has been a favorite turning point in my life. The tourism industry is a great one to be in, because it attracts fun and positive people, allows for a flexible work schedule as well as endless creativity as you design tours. I was interviewed about the process of starting Asheville Hiking Tours, and I sincerely recommend you listen to this TourPreneur podcast before you start your own outdoor tour company. If you don’t have time for a podcast, I’ll try to summarize here:

  • Discover important details about the tourism industry

To be successful, you should discover the “secrets” of the trade. Don’t just build a big, beautiful website and name your tour company what you think sounds good. Talk to many successful tour company owners, get to know tourism trends by attending the conference Arival and become even more familiar with tourism in your specific town. Strongly consider learning about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which I discuss in the podcast. Our free booking platform company Fareharbor even builds SEO-optimized websites. If you jump into starting a tour company without doing your research, you will backpedal from (often costly) mistakes.

  • Gauge interest in your town

Is there a demand for your tours? I used Asheville’s to create tours, gauge interest, receive surveys as feedback and even test my ability to be a guide. Meetup is a great place to start, but it won’t work for everybody. To find out if there is interest for your tours, talk to people working at your Chamber or Visitor’s Center, ask hotel concierges, and talk to other local tour operators. You can even investigate popular Google searches in your town to see what people are looking to do. 



  • Grow slowly in order to avoid big mistakes

Outdoor tours can be tricky due to weather, remote destinations or physical journeys, to name a few. The details surrounding these issues are ones you can’t afford to mess up during a tour. You need to keep your guests safe, and happy! By growing slowly, you avoid costly mistakes or those scenarios that turn into undesirable TripAdvisor reviews. We mention how we are growing slowly and several lessons learned in the podcast.

  • Overcome your fear

The transition into owning a business created real fear for me! Are you terrified? If so, look up “imposter syndrome” and realize that it is common. While it now feels natural for me to lead tours and own a business, I needed practice to feel comfortable. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my career. If you have questions about the process of starting your outdoor tour company, don’t hesitate to contact me through our website


Natural Notes is Asheville Hiking Tours’ blog about nature, history and travel in the Appalachians. Asheville Hiking Tours offers day hikes, waterfall tours, and firefly tours, guided by naturalists, in the mountains around Asheville, NC. For more info visit