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Earn Money as a Local Tour Guide

There really are no shortages of interesting ways to turn an interest in a viable income stream. As any good “Opportunity Analyst™” knows, you never know where a great idea will come from.

For example, in advance of an upcoming speaking engagement in Lexington, Kentucky, my client sent me
a link to my hotel. In addition to the usual list of hotel amenities, the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort also featured a link to Area Attractions.

I’ve never been to Lexington. But I also only have a few hours to sight-see. Generally I prefer to explore on my own. But there are times (like when I had a mere four hours to see Frankfurt, Germany) when it’s a lot more convenient to have a local tour guide pick you up at my hotel and show you the sites. This is especially true for older people or for anyone who may have difficulty getting around on their own or who don’t like driving in unfamiliar places.

So I decided to follow a link called “Hotel Recommended Tour Services” which led me to The Opportunity Analyst in me was fascinated to see how some local people managed to turn their knowledge of this world-renowned “horse country” into a viable small business.

Adults plunk down $30 to be taken “inside the plank fences and down the shady lanes of Central Kentucky” and onto working farms – something the average person could not do on their own. Tourists get a “behind the scenes look at horses after their racing careers are over, in-foal broodmares, weanlings, yearlings and, depending upon the time of year, newborn foals.”

The tours run twice a day, seven days a week. If the photos at the Website are any indication, it looks like they can handle at least a dozen people. You do the math. I’m sure, like a lot of businesses, there are slower and busier months and days. But, all and all, it’s not a bad way to make a living sharing your passion with others.

What strikes me is that a lot more people could be partnering with local hotels to run walking and other kinds of tours. For example, anyone who has attended the annual Work at What You Love workshop in Northampton, Massachusetts knows what a special area this is. And yet, I could not find a single small tour company operating in the entire Pioneer Valley. Sounds like opportunity knocking to me!

If you think you’d get bored running the same tour over and over, then think outside the box and create a series of tours. Tours could be based on themes, demographic niche (children, garden lovers, etc.), or season.

For example, a theme tour in my area could include a historical tour of Emily Dickenson’s house and grave site, a drive by former Northampton mayor and United States President Calvin Coolidge’s home, and a visit to Old Deerfield Village just to name a very few.

The next day could be the craft- or art-lovers tour. Tourists could be guided through one of many local art galleries, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the Smith College Museum of Art, or the Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in the nearby Berkshires. Certain tours could coincide with date-specific events like the upcoming Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail where ten potters in the Amherst, Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts areas open their homes and studios to visitors.

But that’s just the beginning. I could see tours emphasizing kid- or even teen-focused activities, guiding small groups of flora and fauna lovers on local nature trails, leading canoe trips up the Connecticut River, even taking fans of the paranormal on tours of local haunted houses or cemeteries.

Once you’ve been running your touring business for a while you can do what did. In addition to running walking tours themselves, they also train out-of-town tour operators how to lead their own walking tours in the area. Now that’s thinking like an entrepreneur!

You don’t need to live in a well-known tourist destination to find people eager to pay a knowledgeable local to show them around. As travel writer and former contributing editor to International Living magazine Jen Stevens points out, “Where ever you live is a destination for someone else.” (Listen to my complete interview with Jen

Case in point was a full-page feature in The Boston Globe’s Sunday Travel Section about a small, used bookstore and café located a mile from my home called The Montague Book Mill ( Proving once again that just about any deficit can be turned into an opportunity, the owners of this off-the-beaten-path location sell T-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumpers stickers featuring the logo: “Books you don’t need at a place you can’t find.”

Don’t want to start a tour company? The fact that lots of people would love to make money running tours tells me that opportunity is still knocking… just at a different door. For example you could start the Association of Walking Tour Operators of Canada. Or you could interview small – and ideally, unique – tour operators and then produce some kind of a “how to start a tour business” handbook or audio series.

If you don’t want to start your own Website you may be able to work with an established information products distributor like Dream Jobs to Go or Fab Jobs. Both sites feature “how to” guides on a range of businesses like How to Become a Food Critic, Movie Reviewer, Jewelry Designer, Professional Golfer, Spa Owner and many, many more. If your guide is accepted, you earn a commission on all books sold. Plus you can still sell them at your own site and elsewhere as well.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Opportunity is knocking. So what are you waiting for?


A New Direction

I decided to take the Work @ What You Love Workshop and also work one-on-one with Valerie. The workshop explored so many unusual and unexpected solutions to my specific questions. I made so many new connections to what clearly works for me in crea...

Julia Raymond
Curvology Studio

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