Developing initiatives to improve financial stability
A British Waterways case study

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Page 5: Leisure and tourism

No organisation can exist without a good understanding of the market-place in which it operates. For British Waterways, market analysis helps to:

  • identify the competition
  • improve knowledge of consumers and competitors
  • use trends to forecast future activities
  • develop plans and strategies which provide a competitive advantage.

Almost half the UK population lives within five miles of a British Waterways’ canal or river navigation. With leisure now playing an increasingly important role in society, the uses made by waterways are increasingly wide-ranging and diverse. The Henley Centre for Forecasting monitors the UK leisure market closely and estimates that this market is worth approximately £110 billion, with real rates of growth of 7.6% in 1996 and 7.2% in 1997.

  • According to a recent national survey which looks at how people escape from stress, a weekend of canal boat cruising is now twice as popular as a day at an amusement park and equally as attractive as a two-day seaside break.
  • Growth in affluent, active, retired people is helping to grow the boating market.
  • The hireboat industry on the canals alone attracts over 250,000 customers each year.
  • The main reason why people take part in water sports relates to social factors, relaxation and fitness.
  • There are around 100,000 anglers that regularly fish British Waterways’ owned sites each year which are licensed to almost 300 angling clubs.
  • 7.2 million cyclists visit British Waterways towpaths each year.

British Waterways 4 Diagram 3British Waterways works with a number of private sector partners to invest in facilities which help to improve the qualities of experience which visitors gain from the waterways. Leisure activities include:

  • boating (both powered and unpowered craft)
  • angling
  • cycling
  • walking.

Direct income from leisure has increased from £4.1 million in 1985/6 to £11.8 million in 1997/8.

Maintaining standards for customers

In a competitive market, organisations are dependent on their customers. It is important that they understand how customers view their organisation as well as what customers want. British Waterways’ 1997 survey into the views of main user groups showed that steady improvements in standards were being maintained. Regular programmes of market research and consultation, including formal contracts, customer research and surveys, are analysed by an independent organisation.

For example:

  • Boat owners’ views have been surveyed since 1991. Levels of satisfaction have risen significantly and 93% of boaters are happy with the overall upkeep of the waterways, as opposed to 83% in 1991.
  • In 1997, 77% of angling clubs said they were happy with the quality of fishing provided on the waterways.
  • 90% of informal visitors are happy with the overall upkeep of the waterways, while 40% felt that upkeep had improved during the past year.

British Waterways | Developing initiatives to improve financial stability