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Be prepared and don’t panic

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BANGKOK, 6 April 2020: As our travel and tourism industry struggles with the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, business owners are looking for guidance.

We need to urgently become more focussed and professionally communicate what our travel and tourism industry can do once the recovery starts to take place.

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.

“Our response needs to be more productive …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 clubs 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 Covid-19 is over.

5. Gather intelligence

Take a moment to gather all the information and to see 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

In a crisis, a void of information is usually perceived as negative. It’s not the time to hope the Covid-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 timelines to consider, immediate 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?

7. Ask lots of questions.

Q. What to do to safeguard 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 will require both action and yet more leadership. If travel is a problem, consider video conferencing, webinars and other Social Distancing “friendly” alternatives.

(Source: Andrew J Wood)

About the author:
A professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer Wood has more than 35 years of hospitality and travel experience. A hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh, he is a regular guest lecturer at various universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.
He is currently president of Skal Bangkok and a VP of both Skal Thailand and Skal Asia.

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