In light of the government’s failure to offer sector-specific support in response to Covid-19 and the implications of Brexit, the travel industry is facing uncertain times.
The businesses that embrace the unknown will be in a strong position for future growth.
While times are no doubt hard for the sector, the current climate offers an exceptional opportunity for businesses.
The interruption created by the Covid-19 pandemic presents opportunities to reset your brand and offerings. Now is the time to re-establish your organisation to rise towards not where things have traditionally been, but where new markets will be beyond the pandemic.
The rolling lockdowns have interrupted existing patterns of travel and holidaymaking that have been developed and established over recent years.
The immediate challenge is to survive through a changing environment; where will you find customers and how will you serve them?
Looking beyond that, what I want to talk about is how you position yourself to grow out of this challenge; one that will require leaders to rethink offerings, target consumer groups and market positions – a new market will rise out of the pandemic.
One way to prepare for the new market reality is to maximise the value of the talent and assets you have at hand, gather information from multiple sources and proactively reposition your businesses.
Those who get it right will hit the ground running as we emerge from this interruption.
Those who don’t may find a successful recovery to be elusive. Leaders should make decisions as to what they anticipate our new reality to be and how best to serve this new market reality.
These decisions should not be made alone. Leaders should, instead, utilise the diverse resources available to them through existing workforces.
Even if planes are not flying or rooms are not full, your existing staff can help you gather information and test ideas.
During a crisis, regular information sources and signals may become muddled.
Leaders need to cast their net more broadly to gather a wide set of data to inform decisions as to what services and products will appeal to the desired consumer base.
Not only is the pandemic affecting your business and staff, but also those of your partners and supply chains.
The leaders who have visibility beyond their core business will be able to anticipate market changes earlier and more clearly than others.
When many things are changing at pace, it is helpful to develop multiple information sources from which to derive better data to drive decisions as to how you position your business moving forward.
The chaos gives you a chance to reengage with past or existing customers and to reach out to other potential markets to proactively redefine yourself.
While you are staying in touch with customers, you can use this opportunity to gather information but also reposition yourself for when the markets re-emerge.
People are dreaming of travel right now, so utilise this! How can you engage future customers in a manner that gives them hope and helps them dream of what they could have with you in the future?
Use this opportunity to reintroduce yourself to your customers. What have you done during the lockdown to improve your offerings… some of them may be the same ones, just repackaged in a language that speaks to customers’ needs now.
Breaks allow you to redefine your businesses… what do you want to be in the relaunch?
Regular patterns of business are disrupted during a crisis. The chips are in the air. When they come back down, what state will your business be in? Leaders need to rethink not only what they’re doing right now but how those efforts can help to reposition them for the new market that will emerge.
James Berry is director, UCL, MBA