Walking Tour Incubator Grant Program

Walking Tour Incubator Grant Program

Call for Spring 2023 Applications

Location: New York, NY

Application Deadline: April 10

Expected Duration of Incubator: May 10 – July 10 


Alliance for Downtown New York (the “Downtown Alliance”) manages the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Business Improvement District (BID), serving an area that covers roughly everything south of City Hall and along three waterfronts (East River, Hudson River, NY Harbor). The mission of the Downtown Alliance is to provide service, advocacy, research and information to advance Lower Manhattan as a global model of a 21st century Central Business District for businesses, residents and visitors. 


The Walking Tour Incubator Grant Program will award grants of up to $12,500 each to five tourism entrepreneurs who will develop a walking tour experience that can be sustained in Lower Manhattan for at least one year. Applicants do not need to have walking tour experience, but should demonstrate entrepreneurial instincts and the ability to illustrate a path to success. Each applicant should offer an idea for a walking tour that is compelling and original. A preference will be given to those who go beyond the traditional downtown highlights and do not solely focus on the role of the financial industry in Lower Manhattan’s evolution. 

Walking tours can incorporate areas south of Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan, including Battery Park City, the Seaport and Governors Island, and may touch on a wide variety of subject matters, such as: running tours, food tours, historical tours, points of interest off the beaten path or film-and-TV tours. We encourage BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented groups to apply. 

Why walking tours? 

Lower Manhattan is where New York City and US history begins. It is where rebirth and growth continue time and time again — the broader and wider the subject matter of walking tours serving this neighborhood, the more expansive the tourist experience can be downtown. Unlike other types of city tours, a walking tour can craft a narrative for an urban area in real time. For newcomers to the area, it offers an up-close and localized lens that makes a neighborhood feel tangible and creates a sense of personal connection that is unable to replicate through other types of tours.

What’s included in the incubator program? 

Each participant will receive two one-on-one sessions with tourism industry leaders, lifetime access to an educational curriculum specifically designed for tour businesses and the insider knowledge and connections of the Downtown Alliance, which will be working together with you every step of the way. 

Tourism industry leaders, aka the program “mentors”  

Bruce Rosard, Arival Travel
Stephen Oddo, Walks
Nikki Padilla, Global Guide Alliance
Jennifer Ackerson, Alon Marketing 
Mitch Bach, TripSchool 


Can I apply if I don’t have any walking tour experience? 

Yes. You need to have either tourism industry experience or established experience as an entrepreneur.

Do I have to live in NYC to apply?

No. However, you must be based close enough to New York City that you will be able to effectively run and scale a localized tour seven days a week.

Can I apply if I already run another NYC walking tour or am a tour operator?

Yes. Established tour operators who want to start, improve upon or expand their NYC tour offerings are more than welcome to apply.

Key dates: 

Submissions open March 10 

Submissions close on April 10

Winners announced April 15  

Incubator starts May 10

Incubator ends July 10

Selection criteria

Applicants will pitch an initial tour idea for Lower Manhattan that is original and indicates some knowledge of what it will take to be successful in terms of establishing a tour business. 

The winning applicants must show a demonstrated ability to run a business and have some relevant familiarity with tourism, preferably with NYC at large or specifically Lower Manhattan. 

Ideal candidates are aiming to not only launch a walking tour business, but also scale it beyond the one-person operation. 

Please see the Terms and Conditions included for further information. To apply, please fill out the application below or email [email protected] by April 10. 


Describe your current tourism business in as much detail as possible.

By signing or affixing my name in the signature line below, I certify that (i) affixing my name in lieu of an actual signature will have the same force and effect as a signed document, (ii) all of the information provided on the application is true and correct to the best of my knowledge, (iii) the applicant has no outstanding New York State Labor Law violations, (iv) I am authorized to execute this application and (v) applicant acknowledges and agrees to the terms and conditions of this application and understands that the Downtown Alliance has sole discretion in all matters related to the selection of the Grant recipient.

For questions or more information, please contact:

Jessica Drucker
Director of Tourism & Hospitality Marketing
Office: (212) 835-2779
Cell: (847) 907-1283