Starting a Boat Tour Business (Manhattan, Hudson River)


I am trying to gauge the start up-costs for launching a boat tour service in Manhattan on the Hudson River and then what revenues would need to be brought in to make it a profitable business. As a background, I am just a guy in his 20s who day dreams about starting his own business but really has no idea what it would take. I work in the shipping industry (commercial side) and love the water. Rather than start a digital business, I am more interested in physical businesses and my mind immediately wanders to the waters around NYC (i.e. running a tour business on the Hudson, maybe a ferry service from Nyack to Manhattan, etc). One can dream, and I realize this would probably require a ton of capital (and most likely is not realistic)

Below are the expenses I am trying to define, any advice on where to retrieve this information is appreciated.

Start-Up Expenses
Licenses & Permits (NYC GOVT, Coast Guard, etc)
Assets (vessels)

P&L (once business is launched)
Gross sales (ticket sales)
Other Income
Staff Cost
Repair and Maintenance
Income Tax
Net Income

what is this? you want us to write your business plan for you?

HELL! writing my own business plans is work enough and I am not feeling like writing yours as well…

do your research and you’ll find the answers you seek but you’re dreaming if you think we are all simply ready to do your work for you

You need to find a Norwegian business partner. The Norwegians are the only ones that know how to properly run a boat business. They will also have all the connections you need for a state of the art tour vessels.


Apologies for not clarifying further. I am more than capable of writing a business plan and was not asking for anybody to write one for me. I was seeking advice on where to retrieve information to define expenses (not for anybody to define it for me) i.e. Where can I find information on licensing and permits for NYC? Whats a good resource for finding used vessels? etc.

Additionally, reading previous posts it seems there is good information where people have shared their ups and downs of starting their own businesses as well as discussing the feasibility of new ones (such as the great thread on short sea shipping).

If this topic is not appropriate for this board, I’ll make sure to delete my thread. I am not a troll :slight_smile:

Get a job with a boat company doing the same thing already in New York. There are a lot of them. Learn the business that way and then decide if you like loosing money enough to start one of your own.

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Thanks for the advice! Much appreciated! It does seem like there are a lot of these companies out there and that the market is indeed very saturated (hence why its an overall unprofitable business, like shipping as a whole lol).

I’ve heard of many who have done similar in other industries. When I was a kid in my early twenties, a man I later worked for did this with restaurants. He worked at ones he liked for meager wages and then moved on to a different state to start his own business which did as fine (not losing so much money) as could be expected.

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I started a tourboat business in an established saturated market (Naples Florida). Made expenses barely but never a profit in 5 years. Eventually worn down and defeated gave it up. Too many unseen factors to succeed. The established ones have a standing (and inpenetreble) referral base. Concierge and kickback based over many years. Those folks will never give up their proven cash flow for you. Sorry for sad news from real life experience. Tourist based businesses are fed from tourist destinations (hotels, attractions, restaurants etc.)

Thanks for the above real life feedback on your own experience. This is exactly what I was looking for!

plus they know all the legal loopholes how to get one of their vessels into one of our markets.

and after they do, they will thumb their noses at all the US operators in the market and come on here to tell us how our vessels are so inferior and can’t do the job

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I hope that means you are finished here and this STOOPID thread can simply die now

Yep, I am finished. I hope you have a fantastic, happy day.

Not so fast. How many boats 1, 2 ? What about docking expenses, parking for guests? Will it be an existing pier with other boats? Don’t listen to old gruff. He’s likely not going to try and help. Let everyone go through your list and try and help you. Just keep revising your list as everyone throws some ideas at you.

Hehehehe c.captain does not know what happy means.


That’s the gist of it. With out substantial capital you are fighting for the scraps from the established local operators, or the big boys like Hornblower and Entertainment Cruises.

Unless you have a niche or an untapped market, it’s just more heartache than it’s worth.

They are all correct, it’s a tough and saturated business eapecially in NYC but… it’s not 1/10th as tough or saturated as it was when Cornelius Vanderbilt put his firat vessel on the Hudson. But he was a ruthless bastard (are you a ruthless bastard too?)

And Vanderbuilt isn’t the only one… a silghtly more modest company launched very recently and is doing very well:

So, yes? It can be done but you’re asking the wrong questions. The question to ask is how can you do thing 10x better than the competition or build a business that is guaranteed to attract a demographic of people who aren’t buying tour tickets already.

And then you have to figure out how to protect your business from competitors!

Here’s a good place to start:

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damn straight!

I raise my glass to your memory Mr. Carroll O’Connor, WWII merchant mariner and world class curmudgeon

I agree with John that you have to offer something different to have a hope of competing in a crowded market.
(I also agree with Fraqrat ,c.captain and Roosevelt; “Look to Norway”)

Here is a suggestion for you; A fully electric (or hybrid) excursion vessel built in carbon fiber for light weight, no emission, or good fuel economy. Noiseless and with ample deck space for viewing the sights, but with indoor facilities for when it rains, or even for winter cruising:

Brodr.Aa in Norway has a contract with a yard in USA to build for that market:

The Vision of the Fjords was “Ship of the Year” in 2016 and has won international acclaim:


The Hornblower Hybrid already does all of that. You’ll have to find a different niche. There are also several new City owned ferries just coming into the market. It’s a busy waterway in terms of water taxis and ferries.

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Hi there. Do you have your captain’s license? You can’t take any paying customers without it…