10 Travel and Hospitality Small Business Ideas | CO

 A waitress serves breakfast to two guests who are staying at a bed and breakfast.

The bed and breakfast industry is growing — it’s expected to reach nearly $44.7 billion by 2029. — Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

For those with a love of exploration and meeting new people, the travel and hospitality industry offers a promising avenue for success. With the market expanding to nearly $4.7 billion in 2023, these 10 ideas can provide great opportunities for entrepreneurs of various interests and levels of expertise.

Bed-and-breakfast owner

Instead of staying at typical hotel chains, many travelers are opting for road trips to smaller, more quaint destinations, seeking accommodations with a certain charm, character, and personal approach to hospitality. With a market size of $35.5 billion as of 2024, the bed-and-breakfast industry checks all these boxes — and its only expected to grow, reaching nearly $44.7 billion by 2029.

The bed-and-breakfast industry is perfect for those looking to enter the tourism landscape without leaving home. However, there’s more to running a B&B than one’s desire to host and mingle. You’ll need to find a way to differentiate yourself from competitors in your market, such as offering sustainable, farm-to-table or plant-based menus, or interactive cooking classes, to attract guests.

B&B ownership comes with a significant upfront investment. You will need a residence with enough space to create private accommodations for guests, ideally each with their own bathrooms. The more rooms you have to offer, the greater the income potential. However, the residence must be zoned properly to operate legally.

Expect startup expenses for things like permits and business licenses. Other expenses will include building out guest rooms, buying furnishings and essentials, and accounting for kitchen upgrades and food needs. Operational costs will increase as your business grows to cover expenses like employee paychecks, property maintenance, and food and supplies.

Vacation rental owner

Perhaps you don’t have the indoor square footage and blueprints to create bed-and-breakfast accommodations, but you possess the gift of great hospitality, live in a desirable destination, and have an enviable backyard or are near a special natural setting. You could have the makings of a short-term vacation rental business.

If you have accommodations you’d like to rent short term, platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo can be great resources to promote your home to a large audience. These platforms have standards your property must follow, and you’ll likely need to make some upfront investments for things such as furnishings, amenities, and property maintenance. You’ll also need to ensure you have someone to manage your property, whether that is yourself or an outsourced employee.

Before listing your property, be sure your local and state regulations permit you to do so — otherwise, you could waste time and money on a property you can’t rent.

Another option is to offer glamping accommodations. Glamping is elevated camping featuring upgraded accommodations that range from luxurious tents to more unique structures and an emphasis on comfort and amenities like access to bathrooms, fire pits, cookware to facilitate meal prep … and maybe even an outdoor pizza oven. This alternative accommodation style is becoming increasingly popular among couples, groups of friends, and families, with forecasts predicting 8.7% growth in the glamping market by 2030.

Before you jump into the short-term rental industry, secure all necessary permits for your location. Once you’re ready for visitors, post swoonworthy photos on social media and all the details on booking sites like Airbnb, Glamping Hub, or Vrbo.

[Read more: Hospitality Execs from Airbnb and Google to Marriott Reveal Key Growth Strategies]

Private tour guide

If you live in or near a sought-after town or city and love to share everything there is to know (including its best-kept secrets) with others, offering your knowledge and passion as a private tour guide could be rewarding and profitable. You can set your own schedule, create an experience that is unlike any other in your area, and customize tours based on traveler preferences and interests.

Boost your credibility by getting certified as a tour guide or travel professional. There are several ways to do this, such as obtaining a state-specific tour guide license, becoming a travel and tourism professional (TTP) through the International Air Transport Association, or earning a certified travel associate (CTA) certification through the Institute of Certified Travel Agents.

Building relationships with cool local businesses can be a great way to give tourists an insider’s perspective and support the community. Get your feet wet with the built-in audience and fulfillment support of platforms like ToursByLocals, which connects travelers with private local guides for a percentage of each booking. Build your business by posting tour details on local Facebook groups as well as groups targeted to visitors to your area.

Travel blogger

Travel bloggers have become a trusted source for inspiration, advice, and recommendations for those dreaming about or planning trips. These bloggers document their research and experiences, often in great detail, through captivating writing and images that command the attention of travelers — and the advertisers and content providers who want to reach them. Having a niche (like sustainable travel, solo travel, or last-minute getaways), a unique voice, and great insider tips on local hot spots or ways to save time and money are key.

Building a profitable business out of your passion entails a lot of relationship-building and marketing to integrate affiliate links, content sponsorship, and advertising, plus becoming part of the select few who are offered paid travel to write about a locale or hotel. You can also generate income by charging a fee for travel photographers to curate your site with their images, crediting them, and linking back to their online galleries.

As a starting point, it’s a good idea to spend time on leading travel blogs to gain insight and learn the best practices. Analyze these websites to determine which topics are the most engaging to readers and where you can offer superior content. Focus on improving your blog’s search engine optimization, incorporating engaging visual elements, and posting content regularly that is easy to read and provides value to your audience.

[Read more: 7 Steps to Setting Up a Location-Independent Business]

For those with a love of exploration and meeting new people, the travel and hospitality industry offers a promising avenue for success.

Tourism and hospitality translator

If you’re fluent in multiple languages and speak and write with creativity, proficiency, and ease, there are tour operators, hotels, restaurants, and many other travel-related businesses that could use your skills. From websites to brochures to menus, inclusivity is key to welcoming travelers who want to understand the food, art, attractions, and culture of their chosen destination without language being a barrier.

As a translator, you can help businesses of all sizes create dynamic digital and traditional communications that assist their foreign customers and create lasting, positive experiences. You can also offer in-person services as a translator for hotel guests in need of an interpreter for tours, business meetings, or social engagements.

Although a language degree isn’t mandatory to work as a translator — provided you can prove your fluency — many employers prefer candidates with such a degree. Otherwise, relevant postgraduate experiences or qualifications may be necessary.


Photographers in the travel space are skilled at capturing the best or most interesting attributes of a destination, its people, and its culture. Photography is an exciting profession for those who have mastered the makings of a great shot from angles to lighting and have the equipment, flexibility, and adventurous spirit to deliver wonder and a sense of the world through images.

Travel photography is not limited to one style or category. It is a field with many different specialties. The key is aligning your passion and talent with opportunities in the marketplace, such as photography for marketing materials, web content, or selling your images as prints. For example, if you like practicing photography in tandem with other skills, consider leading photo walks or trips to scenic locations you’ve scouted. Or if you’d prefer to travel alone, connect with businesses/organizations and offer to create promotional content on their behalf in exchange for travel and lodging coverage.

Regardless of the route you take, an attention-worthy digital portfolio, a social media presence, and positive reviews can be key drivers toward success.

Local cooking classes

Do you love to cook and get rave reviews for your culinary skills? Know some recipes that capture the flavors of your hometown, city, or region? Why not consider hosting cooking classes marketed to travelers and visitors looking for something special and authentic to do during their adventure?

Culinary tourism has exploded, valued at $11.5 billion as of 2023 as more people crave travel that exposes them to exciting food and drink experiences. An off-the-beaten-track invitation to participate in preparing local flavors in the comfort of a home kitchen is a very intimate, special, and unique opportunity.

Offer a menu of local favorites while sharing stories and anecdotes that captivate. Make sure to know and fulfill any licensing requirements that exist in your town. While formal training often isn’t necessary to host these classes, having strong teaching skills are crucial to providing a valuable experience for your customers.

Vehicle rental

While rental car services are abundant, those with a spare set of wheels can offer a better value to out-of-town travelers in need of a way to get around. Start by test-driving the idea through one of the popular peer-to-peer platforms already up and running, like Turo and Getaround. These apps have the ability to prescreen applicants to weed out those with a record of past major accidents or frequent violations and also protect car owners with an insurance policy of up to $1 million — all important elements to consider and have in place.

Then, consider establishing your own rental business. adding the vehicles of nearby friends and neighbors to your fleet. You’ll need to obtain permits, licenses, and liability insurance, which is mandatory for all car rental businesses to hold and offer to customers while renting. If your business allows rentals across state lines, familiarize yourself with the regulations across all locations where you permit customers to travel, as these rules will apply.

[Read more: Courting Customers: Leading Travel Companies Embrace Tech to Hyper-Personalize Experiences]

Souvenir shop

Travelers rarely return home without bearing gifts for others and something for themselves to remember their travels. In fact, the souvenir and novelty market is expected to reach an estimated value of $114.2 million by 2028. Sadly, the reality is that touristy gift shops are a dime a dozen, turning out factory-made T-shirts and trinkets and lacking the authenticity that many travelers seek. If you live in an area rich in history and culture and have sales experience, explore the possibility of opening a gift shop featuring and supporting local artisans.

Begin by finding a niche that is not being catered to in your market. Then, you can apply for the proper licenses and permits, including resale permits depending on your location. Expect additional upfront costs for things like rent and building out your storefront and the cost of the goods.

Sourcing items can be a challenge; however, Etsy is a great platform for identifying creators who live in your area and may have crafts and wares with a wow factor. Local restaurants with their own lines of bottled or packaged foods are another good area to explore.

Travel concierge service

If you are well traveled, highly resourceful, well connected, and hyperfocused on life’s little details, you can put your knowledge and skills to good use as a personal or corporate travel concierge. A travel concierge attends to every aspect of their clients’ travels, from arranging transportation and dining reservations to accessing premium event tickets and booking tours, attractions, and unique experiences.

A background in tourism or hospitality can be a plus for those looking to enter this industry, as is niche expertise in a particular city or region. For instance, establishing yourself as an expert in all things Paris or focusing on tours for wine enthusiasts can help make you more marketable and focus your marketing efforts accordingly.

Whatever your business’s focus, you’ll need a license and permits, including industry-specific ones that vary by location. Startup costs will likely include employee salaries, office rentals, technology, and marketing expenses.

The key is to make travel smooth, safe, memorable, and authentic for your clients and elicit positive reviews through word-of-mouth and on well-trafficked travel sites and social platforms. Creating valuable online content can help improve your visibility by providing your audience with useful information and establishing your business as a trusted resource.

This article was originally written by Andrea Forstadt.

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