Buckle up because we’re about to take off on the thrilling journey of starting a helicopter business.
Before you soar through the skies and offer breathtaking experiences to your customers, there are some key industry trends you should be aware of if you are starting or run a helicopter tour business.
Once you get your business off the ground, you’ll find a thriving tour market that’s getting better each year. Here in this post, you’ll find the most relevant helicopter tour statistics to aid your new business endeavor.
General Helicopter Tour Industry Trends
- North America has the greatest market share of helicopter tourism around the world due to the number of companies offering tours in the U.S., the decline in crude oil prices, and the influx of domestic travelers across the country.
- Europe is home to the second-largest market share due to increased interest in helicopter tours in Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and the U.K.
- The alliance between helicopter operators and resorts is helping the market grow. For example, the Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas has partnered with a private helicopter company to offer rides to hotel guests in and around the Grand Canyon.
- The global market for helicopter tourism is estimated at $658.6 million in 2022.
- One of the biggest market challenges is the growing number of accidents.
- New York City, The Grand Canyon, and Hawaii will continue to be hotspots for helicopter tours in the U.S.
How big is the helicopter tour industry in 2023?
The Global Helicopter Tourism Market size is estimated to grow by USD 282.41 million between 2022 and 2027.
The global helicopter tourism market was estimated at $659 million in 2022. Some reports estimate that the market will reach $800 million by 2028, while others are even more bullish, saying that the market will inflate to 1,015 million by then.
Are helicopter tours growing in popularity in 2023?
Helicopter tours give travelers a unique perspective of a destination. Many seek the thrill of soaring over a scenic natural landscape like Alaska or Hawaii. Helicopter tours allow nature-lovers and adventure-seekers alike to get up close and personal with volcanoes and mountain ranges, making it a bucket list destination for travelers of all kinds.
As scenic destinations around the world welcome back visitors, helicopter tourism in those places has gone up as well. Overall, there’s been an increase in demand for aerial tours in both developed countries and developing nations.
The decline in crude oil prices and an increased number of travel companies offering cheaper flights have helped boost the activity’s popularity in recent years. But the real growth driver is the alliance between helicopter operators and resorts. Similar to airlines, helicopter tour operators establish strategic relationships with resorts to provide incentives to their customers.
One of the challenges the market will face is a growing number of accidents. Because helicopters have many moveable parts and components, technical malfunctions can quickly spin the craft out of control. The helicopter accident rate (7.5) is much higher than the airplane accident rate (0.175) for every 100,000 flying hours.
Where are helicopter tours most popular?
North America dominates the global demand for helicopter tourism. The U.S. and Canada are the region’s biggest markets, mainly due to their advanced infrastructures, attractive tourist destinations, and the abundance of natural and architectural tourist attractions. However, the popularity of helicopter tourism is also expected to grow in emerging economies like India, China, Indonesia, and Brazil.
Currently, these are the helicopter tour hotspots in the U.S.:
- Ellis Island in New York City
- The Grand Canyon in Arizona
- Hawaii’s natural landscape
- The Chicago skyline
- San Francisco’s bays
- The Seattle skyline
How much does it cost to start a helicopter tour business?
Kickstarting your helicopter tours will require quite a bit of upfront capital. It’s not just the price of the helicopter, but also licenses, a hangar, fuel…
Here’s a breakdown to give you a general idea of how much it costs to start a helicopter tour business:
- A helicopter can cost between $150,000 and $300,000.
- A private pilot’s license will run anywhere from $10,000 and $15,000.
- Your commercial pilot’s license will cost $18,000 and $20,000.
- Leasing a hangar for your helicopter will cost between $1,500 to $3,000 per month.
- You’ll spend about $1,000 for enough helicopter fuel to get started.
- Finally, insurance will cost between $11,000 and $15,000 a year.
What do you need to do before starting a helicopter tour business?
Before you soar the skies and offer an amazing experience to eager customers, there are a few crucial steps to take to ensure a smooth and successful takeoff.
1. Get you pilot’s license or partner with an experienced pilot
Before diving into the tour business, you’ll need to gain substantial experience in helicopter operations or partner with a professional pilot.
If you want to become a pilot yourself, start by getting your license and then progressing to a commercial pilot’s license. Rack up those flight hours, and become intimately familiar with the ins and outs of flying the aircraft.
The other and more likely option is to partner with a qualified pilot. Then, you’re free to focus on the business aspects of your helicopter tours while the pilot takes to the skies. Make sure to vet the pilot for relevant experience to ensure the safety of your flights.
2. Conduct market research
Identify your target audience, assess the demand for helicopter tours in your chosen location, and analyze the competitive landscape. Look for gaps in the market and potential niches to differentiate your business and capture the attention of adventure-seeking customers. A helicopter tour operator in NYC, for example, might include a sunrise excursion to stand out from the crowd.
3. Develop a business plan
Just as a flight plan is essential for a safe and successful journey, a well-crafted business plan is crucial for your helicopter tour venture. Outline your mission, vision, and business goals. As you dive into financial projections and marketing strategies, consider where you’d like to see your business in the next 5 to 10 years.
4. Get the necessary certifications
To operate a helicopter tour business, you’ll need to obtain the necessary certifications and licenses. This includes an air operator’s certificate (AOC) or equivalent permit from the aviation authority in your jurisdiction. Familiarize yourself with the specific requirements, adhere to safety standards, and ensure compliance with all aviation regulations.
5. Secure financing
As we’ve discussed, the startup costs can be hefty. Consider your financial options and secure the necessary funding. Explore traditional bank loans, seek investors or partners, or explore government grants or programs that support entrepreneurship in the tourism or aviation sectors. Create a solid financial plan that covers not only the initial costs but also ongoing expenses like fuel, marketing, and maintenance.
6. Invest in safety and insurance
Safety should be your top priority! Invest in comprehensive insurance coverage specifically designed for helicopter tour operations to protect your business, customers, and employees. Develop robust safety protocols, emergency response plans, and regular maintenance procedures. Most importantly, always ensure your helicopters are in top-notch condition.
7. Build strong partnerships
Building strategic partnerships can help your helicopter tour business take off to new heights. Collaborate with local tourism organizations, hotels, travel agents, and other businesses to create mutually beneficial relationships. Cross-promotion and joint marketing efforts can expand your reach and attract more guests to experience the thrill of your helicopter tours.
8. Either rent or buy a helicopter
The decision to rent or buy a helicopter depends on various factors, including initial startup costs, operational flexibility, and maintenance requirements. There are pros and cons to both.
Pros of Renting a Helicopter:
- Lower initial costs. This can free up your capital to invest in other areas of your business like marketing, infrastructure, and staff training.
- Flexibility in terms of the helicopter model and quantity. You can choose from a range of helicopters based on your specific tour requirements, adjusting as your business grows or seasonal demands fluctuate.
- Responsibility for maintenance and repairs often falls on the rental company. This reduces your operational and financial burden.
Cons of Renting a Helicopter:
- Higher long-term costs. While rental expenses may seem manageable in the short term, long-term rental costs can accumulate significantly. It’s essential to carefully evaluate the rental terms, including duration, fees, and possible penalties.
- Limited control. You may have limited control over the helicopter’s availability, scheduling, and customization options. You’ll need to work closely with the rental company to ensure the availability of helicopters during peak seasons and meet customer demand.
- Dependency on the rental company. Renting means relying on a third party for your fleet. Any changes in the rental company’s policies, availability, or business operations could impact your ability to offer tours.
Pros of Buying a Helicopter:
- Purchasing a helicopter gives you full ownership and control. You can customize the helicopter to your specific business needs, including branding and comfort features, providing a unique experience for your customers.
- Cost savings in the long run. Over time, the cost of ownership may be lower compared to continuous rental fees, especially if your business experiences steady growth and demand.
- You have more flexibility in scheduling and availability. You can prioritize maintenance, repairs, and customization according to your business requirements, ensuring optimal uptime and customer satisfaction.
Cons of Buying a Helicopter:
- Higher initial investment. Purchasing a helicopter involves a substantial upfront investment, which may require financing or access to significant capital.
- You’ll be responsible for helicopter maintenance, repairs, and associated costs. This includes routine inspections, servicing, engine overhauls, and complying with airworthiness directives.
- Helicopters depreciate over time, impacting their resale value. Changes in technology, market demand, and industry trends can affect the value of your asset. It’s crucial to consider the potential resale value and factor it into your long-term financial planning.
Ultimately, the decision to rent or buy a helicopter depends on your business’s specific needs and budget.
In conclusion, helicopter tours offer an exhilarating and unique experience for guests seeking a bird’s-eye view of iconic landscapes and landmarks. The success of your helicopter tour business relies on careful planning and a deep understanding of the market. Staying informed about industry trends will help guide your journey as a new tour operator.