BANGKOK: As our travel and tourism industry struggles with the ongoing C-19 crisis, with hotels and tourism businesses closing and their teams laid off, the industry is being decimated.
Business owners are looking for guidance.
They are crying out for direction. We need to urgently become more focussed and professionally communicate what our travel and tourism industry can do once recovery starts to take place.
They are hungry for leadership and in some cases that hunger exists in their families as generations of travel and tourism employees are laid off.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has provided some leadership with recommendations calling for urgent government support. The recommendations are the first from the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, established by UNWTO with high-level representatives.
Their recommendations call on all of us to prepare now for recovery to come back stronger and more sustainable.
The Recommendations for Action are the first comprehensive set of actions governments and the private sector can take now and in the challenging months ahead.
To be most effective our response needs to be “…quick, consistent, united and ambitious…”, they said.
But how do we plan for recovery?
1. Be prepared
As the old saying goes it is never too early to be prepared. Contingency plans are a good idea. Take a look at varying degrees of business stress. Ask “What if….” questions. Starting at worst case scenarios first then work back.
When you develop your plan, focus on the long-term and consider the impact on your customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and the long-term image of your brand. If you lose sight of the long-term, you may end up compromising customer and employee satisfaction and hurting profitability and viability.
2. Do not panic
Stay calm and focussed. Look for solutions. Do not compare downturn periods with previous good periods. Think more in terms of long-term decisions.
Discounting is easy but may not be the answer.
Try bundling benefits into packages. Add value rather than discounts. Time and again, businesses realise how it would take years to recover from the discounting that they engaged in during an economic downturn.
If you must discount, do so in an intelligent way, without costing your business too much. Think about what customers want. Also, focus in on packages that are unique — in hotels for instance anyone can offer an extra night for free, so try to develop packages that are exclusive to your business.
3. Maintain marketing budgets
You need to keep current customers and to develop packages and promotions that attract both current and new potential business. This is only possible if the marketing budget is maintained. Look beyond the horizon explore smaller, less price-sensitive market segments and develop new revenue streams such as food and beverages, take-away menus, bakeries, internet cafes. Look at health club and spas for more diversification.
Ensure you emphasise with your teams on how to optimise revenue conversion from all revenue streams be it major or minor, which will ultimately help to improve bottom lines.
4. Maintain service levels
If you need to cut costs, do so in areas of your business that don’t impact customers directly. If customer satisfaction and service quality are negatively affected, it will be more difficult to both maintain your current customers and attract new customers after C-19 is over.
5. Gather intelligence. Determine the context of the crisis
Take a moment to gather all the information and to see clearly what is really going on. Your assessment of the situation will determine your action, so proceed with caution.
Talk to all the stakeholders; seek their expertise and opinions; let them know you’re taking the problem seriously. This is a time when leaders are proven. Be a leader.
6. Good leaders communicate clearly and often
In a crisis, a void of information is usually perceived as negative. It’s not the time to hope the C-19 crisis will just disappear. We already know its impact will be long and deep. Answer questions and provide information. Communicate your future plans and strategy confidently and clearly – the message delivered repeatedly and consistently will get through but ensure it is backed-up by decisive action. Once again it’s time for leadership. By understanding the situation, motivating your teams, and activating a clear strategy, the heartache, negative perceptions, and the hit on your bottom line can be mitigated, and you’ll come out wiser.
The future has multiple business time-lines to consider, immediate (now) and those in the future.
All business and marketing plans are in this C-19 era, void and out of date. What more do business owners need to quickly establish as the wheels of industry start turning again?
Ask yourself lots of questions….
Q. What to do to safe guard further debt and damage to my business?
Q. What financial help is out there for business owners and how do we apply for assistance?
Q. What help is there to employees and former employees? In Thailand how do I help my teams apply for Social Security Funding (SSF)?
Q. Where to go to look for business?
Participate in industry wide initiatives to prepare for recovery. Initiatives that require both action and yet more leadership. If travel is a problem consider video conferencing, webinars and other Social Distancing “friendly” alternatives.
Travel is at a virtual standstill. But it will return….
Stay safe, stay well.
Andrew J Wood
About the author:
Andrew was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has over 35 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skal International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.