10 Great Places to Start a Tourism Business Overseas

A dive shop in Caribbean Mexico? A jazz bar in Panama City? If you've got a good idea and an entrepreneurial streak, the opportunities are unlimited.

International Living
start a business abroad, work overseas
Panama is a great place to start a tourism business
Photograph: International Living

In Paris, France, it’s not unusual to see custom tours beginning at $380 per half day and $775 per full day for up to five guests. Themed tours — naughty or not — could be a great way to fund your own trip overseas.

—Steenie Harvey, IL’s European Editor

4. Big Gaps in Colombia’s New Tourism Market

Thanks to decades of bad publicity, Colombia is just starting to emerge as a tourist destination. In 2009, it boasted Latin America’s strongest growth in tourist arrivals. So what’s lacking? English-language websites, for one thing. An English-speaking tour operator or aggregator with some marketing skills could do well here.

The World Bank reports that starting a business in a small town in Colombia is easier than in a big city. Our advice: look at Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast and Villa de Leyva near Bogota. Near Medellin, check out Santa Fe de Antioquia and the lakeside towns of Guatape and El Penol.

According to Attorney Alberto Marenco in Cartagena, it’s very easy to start a business in Colombia. “No special permission is required. Simply ask for a business visa at the Colombian Consulate in your country.

“Once in Colombia, your passport along with your business visa is all you need to create an association, company, open a bank account, or engage in any kind of business. Repatriating money is easy. Colombia has many international banks which can send your money to wherever you designate.”

—Suzan Haskins, IL’s Latin America Editor

5. Nicaragua Says “We Need More Hotels”
There may be no better place to start a business right now than Nicaragua. Incentives include attractive income tax and property tax exemptions, exoneration from import duties on vehicles, exemption from sales tax on the purchase of equipment and construction materials, and more. Several laws have been passed to encourage investment tourism and renewable-energy businesses, and export-oriented industries, including light manufacturing, agribusiness and contact centers. For more information, see www.pronicaragua.org.

Last June, Tourism Minister Mario Salinas said the country is in dire need of more hotel rooms. Nicaragua has just 7,800 rooms and can use four times that number.

Tourism is booming. According to data from the Central American Tourism Integration Secretariat (SITCA), Nicaragua was the only country in Central America that registered positive growth in both tourism arrivals and tourism revenues in 2009.

Where in Nicaragua should you settle? For a tourism business, try the colonial city of Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua—the country’s top tourist destination—or San Juan del Sur on the southern Pacific Coast. The television show Survivor has shined a bright spotlight on this pretty beach town.

—Suzan Haskins

6. Open Your Own Bar on the Spanish Coast

I asked my Facebook friends what kind of overseas business they’d most like to run. The answer I heard most often was: “a bar.”

With the crisis in the Spanish property market, the price of businesses has also taken a tumble in Spain. Many people who took out second loans found themselves over-stretched. But the thing is, Europeans are still flocking to places like the Costa del Sol for vacations. And they have to eat and drink.

$251,000 buys a freehold bar and a 1,182-square-foot apartment in historic Ronda. The property is one of only two houses attached to the two existing turrets of the original Moorish castle walls, so plenty of tourists pass by.

Underneath the apartment, the bar opens onto an enclosed patio that’s actually within the original castle wall.

Leasehold bars with studio accommodation can be had for as little as $33,500. That’s what one on the front-line to the beach in Benalmadena on the Costa del Sol recently changed hands for. It was a 10-year renewable lease with a monthly rent of $1,548. But rent for backstreet bars can often be a third of that. For more information, see: www.spanishbars.com.

—Steenie Harvey

7. Small, Sustainable, and Eco-Friendly in Panama

First Published October 3, 2011

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