How Bulldog Tours raises millions for historic sites and delights tourists

How John LaVerne Built Bulldog Tours of Charleston.

On Episode 9 of Tourpreneur the podcast for tour operators, we share the story of highly successful tour business Bulldog Tours of Charleston.

Tour Operator Owner John LaVerne talks with Tourpreneur Podcast Host Shane Whaley and pulls back the curtain on how he started Bulldog Tours from scratch. In this podcast interview

John LaVerne of Bulldog Tours reveals:

  • How an internship on a carriage tour sparked his love affair with tours.
  • Why he approached the Old Exchange to offer ghost tours?
  • How he moved his business then called John’s Tours from a part time hobby to a serious business.
  • Why he changed the name from John’s Tours to Bulldog Tours
  • How his parents reacted when he decided to leave a well paying job in the corporate world to go ‘all in’ on being a tour operator.
  • How his mission of preserving historic Charleston sites drives him.
  • Bulldog Tour has raised $3.7m for historic Charleston buildings and plans to raise even more.
  • More about his mentors in the early days and the importance of having a business coach.
  • What question his coach asked him that triggered him into action to hiring a specialist role and resulted in increased revenue.
  • Why CPAs are so important for tour operators.
  • How being a tour guide for his own company was a completely different experience.
  • How he dealt with his competitors showing up for his first ever tour.
  • How he deals with criticism and turns it into a positive.
  • That managing expectations with Ghost Tours can be tricky.
  • His first hire, tour guide Franny Russell is still working at Bulldog Tours today.
  • His outlook and approach to managing tour guides and staff.
  • How he first got the word out about his tours.
  • His approach to working with hotels and concierges.
  • How he works with OTAs
  • How much of his business comes from OTAs.
  • Advice for tour operators who want to work with OTAs based on his own experience.
  • How he works with AirBnB Experiences.
  • Confesses that early on he did not think direct bookings from his website would be a success.
  • How he was able to convince the Magnolia Cemetery to allow him to create and operate the Spirits of Magnolia Cemetery Tour. The cemetery have not allowed any commercial activity on their grounds in over 170 years.
  • How a celebrity chef encouraged him to start food tours in Charleston.
  • And Much More!

Links and Resources Mentioned on this Episode of Tourpreneur, the podcast for tour operators.

Bulldog Tours Official Site

The Spirits of Magnolia Cemetery Tour

Bulldog Tours Charleston Food Tours

Bulldog Tours Charleston Ghost Tours

Follow Bulldog on Social Media:

FareHarbor Online Tour Booking Platform

I enjoy the daily brief because it starts my day thinking about big picture topics in our industry. The brief is concise, informative, and a great tool for tour owners and operators. 

John LaVerne – Bulldog Tours

Sign up for your free Tourpreneur Daily Briefing here.