Being proactive in the face of Covid 19

Mar 09, 2020

What a week it has been around the world as nearly all countries grapple with rising cases of covid19. 

Fears around travel

I had a long-standing commitment to be in Glasgow last week to participate in the Scottish Tourism Alliance Signature Conference.  As it drew near, I was expecting every day to receive word that the event had been cancelled.  That didn’t happen and, because I had committed to speak at the event, I travelled.  Even though all official advice said that there was no reason for me not to travel, I’ll admit to a feeling of risk and one of guilt. 

I would not want to be the person to carry a virus into or out of a destination.  Neither would I want to find myself in a situation of being quarantined away from home for 2 weeks should an outbreak have occurred during my trip. I was very relieved to be on the plane home even though, while I was away, the covid19 virus had been identified in a number of people in my own immediate locality.

Testing industry resilience

I fully understand why large numbers of people will choose not to travel at all this year.  It is undoubtedly going to be a very tough year for businesses in tourism and hospitality, and indeed most sectors. This period will test the resilience of the tourism industry to its core and it highlights to me again that the primary pillar of any sustainability strategy for tourism and hospitality is ensuring resilient, robust and profitable businesses that can withstand.

Battening down the hatches

For now, though, it’s time to batten down the hatches.  While it can be hard to identify ‘positives’ in the current global situation, here are a few things to bear in mind (unless we go into complete shutdown!):

  • A certain amount of visitors will still travel – past studies of visitor behaviour in the face of natural disasters and other threats show that close to 50% went ahead with travel plans.
  • More domestic visitors will take breaks at home this year and again next year.
  • Once the crisis passes, there is often a ‘recovery bounce’ and generally the next season comes back very strongly.
  • Government supports are usually deployed to support the sector.

What can you do in the short term?

  1. Be proactive and take action. Put in place all measures you can to ensure your own welfare and that of your team and guests.  Have a look at  Armada Hotel's message to guests for a great example of actions that a hotel could take. 
  2. Do some scenario planning now – put the facts and figures behind the best-case-scenario and worst-case-scenario that could happen this year. Being informed is the first step in being prepared. 
  3. Speak to your bank early if you expect to experience financial challenges. Some banks have already announced a suite of supports for its customers including emergency working capital and payment flexibility on loan facilities.  We can expect other major banks to offer something similar.
  4. Manage communications:In all communications, be honest and optimistic.  This will build trust and also help build belief in our collective resilience.  The situation changes day by day so be proactive, consistent and frequent.  Here are a few thoughts on communication:
  • Keep the communication flowing through all channels.
  • Be proactive on social media. Let your guests, team and industry colleagues know what’s happening, what you’re doing and what’s happening in your area.  It shows you being responsible and provides reassurance to current and future guests.
  • Email all those who have advance booked or enquired with you letting them know what measures you have put in place.
  • If you have a database of past clients, email them directly thanking them for past support and letting them know what’s happening this year.
  • Shift marketing spend and activity towards visitors in your domestic market. Check out this recent article from Skift highlighting the delicate nature of tourism marketing at this time.

Parting thought: control the controllables:

We are facing a period of great uncertainty with many unknowns right now.  The phrase much-cited in sporting circles comes to mind: ‘control the controllables’.  That is quite likely the best you can do for the moment.

 

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