Since forming Britton McGrath Associates at the start of 2001 we have applied our experience of the commercial visitor attraction sector across a range of categories. We offer a bespoke service. No two projects are alike and we invest time in understanding each client’s business, ambitions and needs.
Business planning is our bread and butter, it’s what we do day-in, day-out and forms the basis for much of what we deliver. We think it’s important to distinguish between business planning as a process and the production of the Business Plan itself which is in effect, the output. Business planning is the process of thinking, researching, identifying strategies and planning for the future of a site or project – focusing on how it can be made to be financially sustainable whilst delivering the benefits and protecting the integrity of the concept or product offer. The written Business Plan is the assembly of facts, ideas, assumptions and projections about the future that results from this process and which forms the guide to future activity. We have experience in developing comprehensive business plans, tailoring them for presentation to internal stakeholders as well as potential external partners or funders. We also work on indicative studies which can form individual elements of the business planning process such that a more detailed business case can be developed as the commercial certainty increases.
We are able to draw on our considerable experience of launching new concepts, brands and attractions to input into the concept development process, as well as applying the rigour of the business planning process to evaluate investments at an initial feasibility stage which can increase the likelihood of commercial success. We carry out outline studies which provide a top-line indication of commercial viability and can help with project prioritisation, through to full feasibility studies involving market research and concept development.
Forecasting admissions can be a “dark art” and beware anyone who tells you they have the magic formula! However, after many years of experience, we have developed a robust approach to analysing market potential based on a range of factors. We bring a rigour to defining the size of the available market and reviewing an attraction’s existing and future potential performance. We then take this one stage further to undertake capacity modelling – this is particularly useful for sites where physical capacity is an issue but, given the seasonal nature of the attractions market, has application across the majority of projects. We develop a model bespoke to each project which takes into account variable factors such as total admissions, the split of individuals and groups, transport modes, party sizes and dwell times and highlights key pinch-points where there are physical constraints such as fire regulations or the numbers of seats available as well as experience delivery standards such as maximum queue times, comfort factors etc. The model provides a powerful tool which allows us to identify the “sweet spot” for admissions and optimum commercial return.
Having both operated visitor attractions, developed business plans for or reviewed the performance of many others, we have extensive experience that can be applied to deliver a “fresh pair of eyes” review of a visitor attraction or destination.
Our aim is to complement internal management skills and knowledge – which means that no two projects are alike – but we would normally approach this by undertaking a comprehensive market and catchment area assessment with a view to determining a range of potential visitor volume and income performance and then reviewing the primary and secondary income potential based on a number of agreed assumptions or scenarios.
We have a depth and breadth of industry experience based on our hands-on experience working for some of the UK’s most commercially successful visitor attractions, as well as our consultancy work across a broad range of leisure and tourism organisations. This allows us to bring both tangible operational experience as well as a fresh external perspective to long term strategic planning. Our contribution is backed up by an in-depth knowledge of practical issues and an appreciation of the need to deliver tangible benefits to visitors and stakeholders.
Examples of studies in this area include: The Property Prioritisation Project (PPP) for English Heritage; long-term visitor forecasting for English Heritage and; “Sizing the Prize” at Windsor Great Park for The Crown Estate.
We have acted on behalf of local authorities, charities and private companies to provide an independent expert view on the viability of an existing or proposed visitor attraction or related business. This can range from providing expert opinion to private equity investors who might be considering an investment in the attractions market where perhaps they have little or no previous experience, through to helping a local authority to robustly challenge the business plan assumptions that are being used to underpin a planning application to ensure that the proposal really will deliver the economic benefit that is being promised. Either way, we use our knowledge of the industry and our experience of developing business plans to really get under the skin of the proposal or prospectus in question – to support or challenge as appropriate.
We can help to develop and refine a concept whether there’s already a core offer which needs work to optimise its commercial appeal or, whether there’s a blank “piece of paper”, or more likely, site, space or venue, for which a commercially viable use needs to be found. In the case of an existing or known concept the answer as to whether it will work or not is rarely a straight yes or no but more often a series of suggestions as to what might need to happen in order for the idea to connect with visitors. In cases where there are a range of options, we are able to robustly evaluate options against each other based on their likely visitor appeal and fit with wider organisational objectives.
Whether it’s an existing heritage or leisure property, or a new mixed used development, we are able to use our experience to help identify and develop commercial opportunities which meet and complement the overall financial and other objectives of the project. Either independently or operating as part of the incumbent team, our experience enables us to identify and unlock potential opportunities and prioritise them according to their likelihood to succeed and ability to contribute to the bottom line or other objectives.
When approaching tourism strategies, we apply our skills and experience in visitor destinations and the visitor economy. Our aim is to identify the potential that exists in a destination and then go on to define and prioritise the means by which it might unlock this potential.
This type of study might include a review of the market within which a particular town or destination sits; a review of comparative visitor destinations to frame the discussion on the potential opportunity that harnessing the visitor economy might offer; and a review of the visitor experience.
We usually approach this type of study with a broad programme of consultation and communication with any stakeholders, both internal and external. Our focus is on the delivery of, amongst others, increased visitor spending; enhanced profile as a visitor destination; and an improved environment for local residents and businesses within a destination.
Examples of this type of study include the Shrewsbury Visitor Economy Strategy and Action Plan and a Tourism Strategy for Dover.