Making a living is tough, making a living writing is even tougher. Last year, I had a spark of inspiration that birthed an idea that I thought could help others. At first I didn’t want to tell anyone; I was so sure that someone else would take the idea and use it.

Eventually I decided to call a couple of colleagues to ask them what they thought about the idea: starting an online education resource company that teaches people how to start their own online tour company. I got feedback. I processed new ideas. And today I’m ready to share the revised idea with all of you.

Speed Dating floor at TBEX in Toronto

The Background

Last year, at the very first Travel Exchange with the National Tour Association, two large and established travel trade organizations NTA & UMA came together on one showroom floor for five days of education, booth displays and business appointments. I had been attending this convention for the past 25 years, and had made good friends and accomplished a fair amount of business over the years. I was the Chairman and CEO of the National Tour Association and managing our conference for that year, having volunteered my way to the top with my entrepreneurial spirit. As I stood looking over the showroom floor and what our team had created I realized that what I was looking at was not going to be sustainable if we keep doing business in the same way every year. It felt bitter sweet.

What I discovered during my term as Chairman and CEO is that everyone is being taught to work for somebody else, but many wanted to own their own business and work for themselves. Travel and Tourism Schools, Colleges and University are educating the next generation to either work for a hotel chain, become a travel agent or learn how to be a tour guide. No one was teaching how to become a tour designer. I found that no one was creating new tour companies, and if they were they did not have a place to gather and collaborate. In the industry, travel and tour companies are either passed down from generation to generation or they are bought up. Hundreds of thousands of home based travel agents are looking for ways to generate more income so they can make their own hours and travel. And, writers are looking for ways to generate revenue from their blogs.

I started thinking about the common ground between all these things.

The Idea

My idea was to cultivate the next gen of online tour designers and teach how someone could start their very own online tour company — how to do it and how to work with a tour designer to create, manage and market tour experiences online. I started Entrepreneurs in Travel, with the first class (of 10 students) completing the eight week course in June 2013.

Also in 2013, I met Rick Calvert at a DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International) and learned about what TBEX is and what travel bloggers are doing within our industry. It got my attention! I started wondering if travel bloggers might want to learn how to become tour designers. The concept had some merit but really wasn’t being won over. Creating, managing and marketing your own tour company is a lot of work involving different skill sets, but what if. . . .

What if there was some way to bring travel designers and travel bloggers together to create, manage and market tour experiences. It all sounded simple to me, bloggers have engaged readers that connect. They want to write and make a living doing it. I am a tour designer. I create and package tour designs all day and support my family doing so. I package and sell tours to tour operators who, in turn, sell the tour to their clients. That tour operator could be you – selling tour packages to the readers of your travel blog who eagerly follow and engage with you about the destinations you love and recommend.

I wondered: What if there was a place online where travel bloggers could come and connect with tour designers to create, manage and market experiences around the world.

Testing the Idea

Believing the idea had merit, and that bloggers and tour designers could work together to create income producing activities, I decided to build that online place. With my association background and the new tour designers from our first EIT courses, there are now around 100 tour designers that are collaborating online. If you are a travel blogger wanting to create a luxury tour to China, or a food blogger wanting to travel through Spain on a culinary tour, or wherever your interests may take you, you may be interested in a soft launch opportunity to try out this idea. I am starting to gather a select group to start this soft launch and I hope it’s something that interest you. If so read on.

I tested this idea out with a blogger who wanted to create an Eco adventure experience to Costa Rica. I shared with her that I could put her in contact with a tour designer that I trusted that created experiences into Costa Rice and that he could put the entire trip together for her. The tour designer would and she would write about it and offer the tour on her blog, making a portion of the profit when the tour was sold and completed. She asked if other bloggers could write about it and offer it on their sites. I said of course, and they could create revenue in this way as well.

How Does it Work

As a tour designer we are asked to put together quotes all day long. We aren’t paid for putting together quote, we don’t make any profit until the tour is completed and people sold. So putting together a tour for a travel blogger to market is done at no charge to the blogger.

So where does the money come from? Most of the tour packages you see in catalogs are marked up 100%, and in that mark up is where the tour designer and blogger can generate revenue. The tour designer can provide a customized product to the blogger to promote, with plenty of margin for everyone to make it worth their while.

What’s Next for Travel Bloggers

I know travel bloggers love to write and travel, and need income to make that all come together. But how do we all meet, collaborate, create, market, and manage risk together knowing their must first be a level of trust between us. Let’s see if we can make that happen.

Author BioJim Reddekopp was born and raised in Hawaii and has worked in the visitor industry for over 35 years, working in every facet of the tourism industry. He has served in a variety of leadership positions within the tourism industry and is a Past Chairman & CEO of the National Tour Association. He launched Entrepreneurs in Travel as a way to fill a need in the tour designer business. Bloggers interested in learning how they can work with a tour designer to create a revenue stream are invited to contact Jim for more information.