Authenticity, Strategy and its Blind Spots

The expectations between tourists and travellers are merging. Whilst previously a traveller was someone who sought the unexpected, out of the ordinary authentic experiences and values, the tourist on the hand had much less expectations. And how do you create that out of the ordinary authentic experience?

Customers will always be willing to pay more if they believe and perceive to be having an out of the ordinary or authentic experience. So what does this mean for the traditional strategies adopted by the hospitality industry? It means travel businesses need to adapt fast and localise the experience as much as possible. This means the entire organisation must be aware of their core purpose, values and strategy that integrates with a local purpose, values and strategy to achieve the ultimate corporate goal.

Ashen Liyanage
Ashen Liyanage

It’s no surprise to find that so many in the travel and hospitality industry around the globe face strategic challenges and blocks. Some are major external impediments whilst others internal.

What is strategy? Ask a group of CEOs and you will get different answers. Very simply put it is a plan for obtaining a specific major result. Not to be confused with the idea of a tactical plan. For example; working with Travel Daily Media is a tactic to promote a desired end result that will feed into a major result.

The fundamental setback is that most organisations fail to filter down to its people a clearly defined purpose, vision, values and business growth indicators. The businesses that do have these principles and goals in place, cascade these company ideals only amongst the C-Suite executives and not across functions throughout the whole organisation. Airlines are a case in point.

A recent survey involving over 4000 senior executives conducted by “Strategy& and PWC” found that over 50% did not have a winning strategy. More worryingly, over 80% of executives had accepted they did not have a well laid out blueprint that is understood by the entire organisation.

Another survey by Gallop found, that out of the 1.3 billion people who have a good substantial job, only 12% were engaged in the job.  I am not at all surprised with the low figures.  Despite thought leadership being considered as the way forward for business enterprises today, organisations are still old fashioned in adapting to new ways of creating purpose and strategies. They ignore the core elements of purpose, passion and four other key operational areas that are important to the business.

When starting a business, over 28% worry about competition, and an alarming 49% don’t know how to start. It does not have to be so. Starting a business is one of the most rewarding experiences with the correct strategy and support. In any business, understanding the speed of strategy and the strategy spectrum is key.

In just over a decade we have moved from analogue mobiles to wrist-watches capable of receiving emails, text and face or voice calls. Did you foresee this 10 years ago? Do you know what will happen in the next 2 years let alone 10 years? Unless you understand the strategy spectrum and plan accordingly, organisations will invariably be left behind. A great example is Nokia. The speed of strategy caught them out and took them from a global market leader to an insignificant player.

With such rapid change, you should ask yourself how robust is your business strategy? How swiftly can you transform your plans when cash, talent or sale pipelines falter? What is your sales pipeline in 3 months? Do you need talent to support that or are you allocating too many resources on low ROI clients at the expense of potentially higher ROI clients? What is your sales funnel? Perhaps Travel Daily Media could be one part of that funnel.

Is everyone in the organisation aware of the spectrum of strategy and how they all fit around it? How do you celebrate growth with the staff?  I do not mean the usual cash bonus as a celebration.

Success and failure for many businesses depend on the set of business goals and ideals cascaded down to everyone in the organisation. Bridging the gap is essential to triumph. One must have a purpose, vision, values, a 2-3year strategy and business growth indicators available to all.

Every business, big or small has two basic blind spots – talent and cash. It may sound obvious but you will be surprised how many are oblivious to these primary principles. In order to address it, they need to identify their purpose.

What is purpose? The purpose of a business is core to what its objectives are, and as such, it is important to ask why the business exists in the first place. Purpose has 5 elements: passion, service and value, market opportunity‎, financial and lifestyle:

Passion: If you don’t like what you do, you should go do something else.
Service and value: what exactly is the true value and service you are offering to customers? If you fail to add service and value, the business has not got longevity.
Market opportunity: Is the market big enough to build the right business if you add service and value.
Finance: Is it large enough to create a business to become a major player in the particular space.
Lifestyle: Can the business create a lifestyle for the business owners and all stakeholders.

Finally, an element hardly discussed is exit; what does the exit look like in 5- 10 years’ time. Be it IPO, trade sale or merger.

We all know, and have experienced working with service providers that have been set up and built on financials, market opportunity, and lifestyle but disregarded the passion, service and value elements. Prime examples are law firms and banks. Remember what it was like when these two elements were missing?  When was the last time you came across a law firm or bank that served with passion and added service and value? More importantly that had an authentic service.

On the other hand, I have had the privilege to work with Travel Daily group on behalf of my corporate clients and the team’s passion (why they do what they do) and dedication to service and value was evident right across all functions. They certainly adopt the belief that monetary reward is a by-product of excellent service and value. It simply boils down to the purpose and values being cascaded down to everyone within Travel daily.

Anyone meeting Gary, Mark or Darren will soon find out that they are full of passion and purpose in everything they do. There is authenticity in everything they do.

Learning strategy is not a simple training exercise for senior executives. It is more about facilitating to articulate their purpose, vision and value.  I do not mean fluffy vision and mission statements.

There is no dearth of ‎information today like webinars, books, blogs and videos. Yet can they challenge you to dwell deep into what is important to you and your business? This is where a third position mentor is invaluable.  They help steer the business towards achieving returns on investments.

One of the most successful entrepreneurs in the USA – Daymond John, advises business leaders, owners, entrepreneurs to surround themselves with mentors, to help build a business with passion and most importantly to get out of their comfort zone to be a success.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the desire to offer customers the unexpected authentic experience, some of the large global hotel chains, which built their brands through quality and consistency, is adopting purpose and values suited to the local market by building new brands that deliver authentic experiences. A case in point; Marriot’s Moxy and Hyatt’s Centric brands. In order to achieve this new strategy, purpose, vision and values must be disseminated from the C – Suites to the floor level.

It is worth remembering a quote from Beukminster Fuller – “if you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother to try and teach them.

Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking”.

So how is that business you created doing for you? Is it delivering the lifestyle you hoped for? Is it delivering the out of the ordinary authenticity customers expect?


Ashen Liyanage is a business owner, coach, consultant, mentor, strategy-on-a-page expert, and a NLP Practitioner. For further information on strategy-on-a-page, he can be contacted on or through Travel Daily Media Offices.

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