A Tour & Activity Operator Guide to Business Planning for Growth in 2024

PARTNER POST: It’s the beginning of the year – now is the time to build your strategic plan for growth in 2024. Here’s an essential seven-step guide plus top tips from the business growth and scaling experts at Cultivate Advisors

PARTNER POST | SPONSORED BY Cultivate Advisors

Partner Post by Cultivate Advisors Logo

In our fast-paced world with endless experience opportunities all vying for travelers’ attention, success belongs to those who plan ahead. As we kick off 2024, it’s time to delve into the strategies that will shape your tour, activity or attraction business in the coming year to ensure you have your biggest year yet. 

Regardless of how you ended 2023, you need to build your strategic plan for 2024 sooner rather than later. Whether this is your slow season or not, it’s crucial to maximize the next several weeks as they present an excellent opportunity to take stock of what went well last year and align your goals for this year to stay on track for your long-term vision.

We’ve pulled our resources together to create a guide that you can use to build — or improve upon — your 2024 business plan. In this article, we will talk about how to get in the right mindset, connect your annual goals to your long-term vision, and break your goals into tactics that you can use to achieve massive growth. We’ll also share a few key takeaways, including:

  • Key strategies for getting into the planning mindset 
  • How to set goals, KPIs, and leading indicators
  • Planning Framework – Process to follow, Connecting macro to micro
  • How to bring the team into the planning process

With these resources, you’ll be armed with the tools you need to plan for explosive growth in 2024.

Start Here: Setting the Right Mindset 

In working with hundreds of businesses in the tourism space at Cultivate Advisors, we’ve found that the first step in developing a solid business plan is setting the right mindset. When it comes to business planning, mindset is so important. Planning requires innovation, and it requires you to be in a mindset that allows you to shift and grow.

As an owner, it’s important to check in with yourself. Are you living in the past, present, or the future? Are you still suffering from lingering effects of the pandemic or living in fear of this year’s travel forecast? Living too much in these areas can be detrimental to your business planning. You need to be able to reflect on the past without letting it dictate your future, and you have to be realistic about your future to set yourself up for success.

Before getting into the details, it’s important to start with the right mindset | Photo: Pexels/Cottonbro Studio

Here are seven key principles to adopt for a successful planning mindset:

  1. Take Space for Your Planning: Effective planning requires time and focus. Set aside dedicated periods for planning, free from distractions. This lets you think critically about your goals and strategies, leading to more thoughtful decisions. 
  2. Give Your Team Space for Planning: Planning isn’t limited to individuals; it’s a team effort. Encourage open communication and collaboration within your team. Provide opportunities for all of your team members, from admin staff to tour guides, to contribute their insights and ideas during the planning process. 
  3. Plan Out Multiple Scenarios: In this uncertain world, it’s essential to prepare for different outcomes. Develop contingency plans and scenarios to adapt to unexpected challenges or opportunities. This flexibility ensures you’re ready for whatever the future holds. 
  4. Be Firm on Macro, Be Open to the Path on Micro: Maintain a clear long-term vision while remaining flexible in your day-to-day execution. Your overarching goals should guide your actions, but be open to adjusting your tactics as circumstances evolve. 
  5. Simplify to KPIs (Max Five That You Will Drive): Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are your compass in the planning process. Select a maximum of five KPIs that align with your goals and track them religiously. This simplification keeps your focus sharp and helps you measure progress effectively.
  6. Increase Cash Threshold: Financial stability is the backbone of any plan. Ensure you have a healthy cash reserve to weather unexpected financial storms. This financial cushion can provide peace of mind and the flexibility to pursue opportunities when they arise.
  7. Review with Your Advisor: Whether it’s a mentor, coach, or a trusted colleague, seek guidance and feedback on your plans. An outside perspective can help you identify blind spots and refine your strategies. Regularly reviewing your plans with an advisor adds an extra layer of accountability.

Embracing a planning mindset is not only about creating a roadmap but also about adapting to the twists and turns of your journey. By implementing these planning principles, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the complexities of leading your tour, activity or attraction business in 2024, setting yourself up for success in the long run.

Want a more in-depth dive into the planning mindset? Check out Cultivate Advisors’ double-length session at Arival 360 | Berlin 2024.

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Seven Steps to Strategic Business Planning in 2024

Step 1: Look at Your Vision & Long-Term Goals

The first step in any strategic plan involves looking at your business’s long-term vision and goals. By analyzing your vision, you allow yourself to step back and identify how your business needs to shift over time to hit your goals versus looking for short-term solutions. 

It’s important to remember where you’re heading and why. Your vision should act as your north star, and any goals you set should orient you towards that destination. 

If you have a team, it’s important to bring them into your vision. No team? No problem. Perhaps you want to grow your business by expanding your work with hotels — make them your team. Include them in your vision and create initiatives around working together. For example, go meet with the concierges and see what they need to book more tours. One of our clients discovered that by offering transportation to and from the hotel for their tours, hotel sales increased by 25%.

If you don’t have a clear vision for your business or feel yours is outdated, it might be time to take another look.

Step 2: Perform a SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Performing a SWOT analysis is a tactic businesses use to help reveal blind spots that business owners or employees might not see on a day-to-day basis. This helps your company slow down and ask probing questions that unveil essential information about your company and where it wants it to go. It is the easiest way to self-evaluate your business both internally and externally.

The strengths and weaknesses of a SWOT analysis are considered to be internal, while opportunities and threats are considered to be external. What does your company do well, and where can you make improvements? Is there a certain tour you do better than anyone else in the market that you can focus on more? Or can you remove an unpopular tour or time you offer that isn’t aligned with the vision you’re building?  

Opportunities and threats are even more important in today’s marketplace as companies evolve and innovate faster. Rather than trying to put out fires as your competitors make positive steps forward, a SWOT analysis allows you to act as a firefighter ready for battle. As a best practice, strive to complete a thorough SWOT analysis at least once per quarter to keep yourself accountable and aligned with your goals.

A SWOT Analysis helps you stay aligned with your goals | Cultivate

Step 3: Set Your Macro Goals

What do you need to accomplish this year to achieve your vision?

Identify 3-4 overarching goals for your business. For example, do you want to launch a new product or service? Do you want to recruit 20 new people? Write down 3-4 things you must accomplish to achieve your long-term vision.

Here are a few of our clients’ goals this year:

  • Introduce local foods to 1,000 people
  • Expand to 1-2 other markets 
  • Open a brick & mortar 
  • Hit $1M in revenue
  • Increase number of tours or customers by 20% 
  • Increase profitability by 5% 
  • Practice better work/life balance by hiring a manager

When setting your goals, remember to choose SMART business goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) that are measurable and easy to track. For example, a goal to “Increase sales by 10% in the next two months” is easier to measure than “increase revenue.”

Step 4: Identify the KPIs You’ll Use to Track the Success

Now that you’ve created your business goals, it’s time to shift your attention to monitoring your progress and defining your deadlines.

In addition to setting SMART goals, you should establish clear dates and milestones by which you want to achieve your goals. To ensure you’re on track, you need to identify the KPIs you will use to track the success of your goals. Metrics are an excellent way to measure progress and understand what works in your business and why. When it comes to KPIs and businesses, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each business is unique in its goals and should use its business plan as a starting point to determine KPIs.

Let’s say you have a goal of reaching $100,000 in revenue in the next year. Conduct a brief “sniff test” to determine whether this goal is attainable. Did you only make $10,000 last year? It might not be attainable to set this new KPI, and you could be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, consider establishing more attainable KPIs based on previous business performance that aligns with your goals and vision. Once you set your KPIs, they act as a source of motivation to help you meet your larger business goals.

Step 5: Prioritize Initiatives

Once you have 3-4 “big rock” items and you know how you plan to measure their success, brainstorm 5-6 strategic initiatives you can use to achieve those goals. Once you’ve identified 5-6 for each goal, prioritize. Consider your resources and prioritize each initiative accordingly. Remember, over a year, the best teams will accomplish four initiatives per goal; depending on the size of your team, you might be able to accomplish more, but as a rule of thumb, four initiatives per goal is an excellent place to start.

Bring your team into the process | Photo: Pexels / Fauxels

Step 6: Build Your Strategy to Implement Each Initiative

Now that you have your goals and objectives and know what you are working towards (your vision), it’s time to identify the strategy and plan how to implement these initiatives. It’s best to break it down to a weekly schedule you can revisit throughout the year to ensure you stay on track.

Here is an example of how you can break down your goals to hit a yearly revenue goal. Let’s say you have a 3-year vision of hitting $10M in revenue; how much do you need to make this year to be on track for that goal?

  • Year 1 –$5 M
  • Year 2 – $ 7.5 M
  • Year 3 – $10 M

Once you have those numbers, let’s break it down further. What do you need to do next year to make it happen? What do you need to get there monthly, weekly, and daily? 

The most common metrics to break down are leads for marketing, booking numbers, and conversions, as well as the people and resources needed to achieve your revenue goal.

Here is an example:

  • Revenue Goal – $ 500,000
  • Average Ticket or Tour Sale – $50
  • Year Goal – 10,000 bookings goal (revenue goal/average ticket sale)
  • Month Goal – 834 bookings (annual ticket goal/12 months)
  • Week Goal – 193 bookings (annual ticket goal/52 weeks)
  • Day – 28 bookings (weekly goal/7 days)

This micro breakdown is where the magic starts, as you realize what needs to shift to level up. From here, you can work on big initiatives to hit larger goals like creating corporate tours, building a custom tour division, increasing online travel agency (OTA) sales, and/or increasing direct website bookings. What initiatives and smaller steps will help you reach these larger goals? 

Once you get down to the day, you can take it a step further by determining specifics like how many leads you need to get from each marketing avenue outlet or distribution channel. Look at your Google ad campaign — how many leads do you have coming in? What about from your OTA listings, or booking system affiliate program? How can you track & set goals around those leads? This will help you allocate your marketing budget accordingly. 

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Step 7: Hold Yourself Accountable

The accountability factor of your business plan needs to come into play as soon as you establish your goals. When you set a target to hit, what will the ramifications be if you don’t hit them? Although business owners are all unique in their goal-setting approach, it’s always important to consider what happens if you don’t hit your agreed-upon KPI. 

It’s tempting for business owners to get bogged down in the day-to-day activities of their companies, but this approach doesn’t hold them accountable for the bigger picture. As a best practice, business owners should spend at least 2-5 hours per week thinking about what is going well and how to improve.

Plan Your Business Goals with Cultivate Advisors at Arival 

Developing a plan for your business is the best way to break your goals into digestible, achievable actions to keep your business on track. Apply this framework to your company and see how much simpler your big, audacious goals feel.

Join us at Arival 360 | Berlin 2024 in March for a special double-length breakout session on annual planning. In this hands-on workshop we’ll walk you through the components of an annual plan, as well as review some best practices for creating a scaling mindset and roadmap for 2024.

Become an Insider Pro Access member today and get access to the full library of Arival research, plus many other benefits such as free consulting sessions, special discounts and 20% off in-person events, starting from $179 per year.

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