Boat charters are popular for those who want to enjoy the water, but may not otherwise have access to a boat. They’re also a big hit in vacation destinations around the world, providing tourists with the best way to get out and see the sights, connect to various areas, and more. If you’ve got a boat and you like showing off your local scenery, a boat charter tour business might be perfect for you.
Even if you don’t have a boat yet, you can still get started on a new tour business that offers boat charters– buying the boat is just part of setting up shop. In this guide, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about this business option so that you’re ready to get moving on your own business.
What is a Boat Charter Tour Business?
A boat charter tour business is a company that offers various types of boat tours and charters. These companies are generally located in coastal regions, near lakes and rivers, or even in National Parks and tourist areas where there is a lot of water that can be explored, fished, and more. These tours come in all styles, including fishing charters, whale watching tours, pleasure cruise tours, dinner cruises, snorkeling or scuba diving tours, and more.
Depending on where you reside or start your business, you’ll have different options for the types of tours that you offer. Once you decide what type of tour you want to create, you’ll be able to create a business plan and start working on putting your ideas into motion. In addition to the rest of the tips and insight in this guide, you’ll want to consider keeping an accountant and a lawyer handy to assist with planning and setting up your new business.
Getting the Boat and the Business
You cannot legally operate as a tour business without proper paperwork and licensing, so be sure that you are following the guidelines here as well as any local or state regulations for starting this type of business in your community. Getting the business filing right is far more important than anything else in the process, after all.
Your best option here, as with any startup, is to consult a legal professional who can advise on how to structure and set up your new business so that everything is done in accordance with the law. They’ll be able to offer all kinds of insight and advice, and as a bonus, you can keep them on retainer to handle any legal needs related to your boat charter business in the future.
Tip: Use our boat loan calculator to estimate the cost of buying a boat.
The Boat: Lease vs. Buy and More
One of the first questions on your list should be whether you’re going to lease or buy a boat outright. Leasing affords you the chance to let someone else handle maintenance and repairs, but when you own your vessel, you’ll have a lot more freedom as to what you can do with it. Compare these options carefully to determine what’s right for your needs.
Another consideration is the size and style of the boat that you choose. Starting a fishing charter business, for example, will require a different boat than if you wanted to start a simple cruise tour business. You’ll also want to think about the safety gear and additional accessories that you’ll need to buy to complete your watercraft. Essentials for any boat, and especially those used for charters, include:
- Life vests, rafts, and other safety gear
- Fire extinguishers
- GPS and emergency radio
The Business: Name it, License it, and Take it to Market
Choose a business name for your charter. Make sure that it’s something that is not already in use and that’s easy for people to remember. The last thing you want is to lose business because no one can quite get “Barry and Larry’s Deep Sea Fishstravaganza Tour” right– fun names are fun, but people have to be able to find you.
As far as licensing, you’ll need to incorporate your business accordingly, based both on your intended operations and local and state laws. You’ll also need to ensure that all drivers have a captain’s license and that you have liability insurance and commercial coverage that recognizes your boat as a business, not just a pleasure craft.
Once you’ve got a name and all the right paperwork in place, you’ll be able to start marketing your charter business. You should take advantage of local tourism resources that might have free advertising services, as well as social media, to reach out to as many people as possible and build your brand image quicker than you might on your own.
A Quick Review
To sum up our guide, here’s a quick glimpse at the steps to starting your very own charter boat tour business:
- Choose a business name and charter type.
- Incorporate the business and create a business plan.
- Choose whether to lease or buy your boat.
- Don’t forget accessories and safety gear to outfit your boat!
- Market your business via local tourism resources and social media.
- Start booking (and taking) tours!
Hit the Water and Have Fun!
There are few people in this world that get to make a living doing what they truly love. If you have been fortunate enough to start a boat charter tour business, you’re never going to “work” again in your life. Just remember to start things off on the right foot and take care of all of the paperwork and planning in advance. After all, your business will be a lot more fun when you know the logistics are handled.
Remember to take advantage of the resources and people who are there to help you every step of the way, including an accountant, attorney, and others. Get your business in order, get your boat in the water, and you’ll be on your way to endless hours of scenic tours across the waters that you love, no matter where you are. Plus, you’ll be making a profit doing it. What more could you ask for?