Jacqui Walshe, Executive Chairman of The Walshe Group, has penned a powerful and positive message to all those in the travel industry, based on her experiences through the pandemic so far and her hopes moving into the year.
We traditionally head into January feeling positive and optimistic for the year ahead. January 2021 brought a reality check and January 2022 could readily overwhelm any positive vibe.
Despite this start, I feel optimistic about the year ahead. The aviation and tourism industry continues to be brutalised and the latest challenges may be tragically too much for businesses who have battled through up to now.
Those who, through that fateful combination of luck and good management, know they will survive these latest hurdles can turn challenge into opportunity.
So, as I look to the future, I also wanted to reflect on the past two years and on the things we’ve done to sustain our business during the pandemic and build back better for the future.
Rebuilding the Workforce
Workforce will be a major issue for all of us. We are fortunate to have retained a good proportion of our original team through huge compromise and flexibility on both sides.
We are also fortunate to have a portfolio of customers who both inspire long-term loyalty from our people and who kept their own businesses active and engaged throughout.
Core revenue and some new business (plus government support) helped us retain many of our team and our personal and industry networks are helping us find the right people as we rebuild.
We reinforced what we knew about the importance of maintaining respect and empathy in our communications and learnt quickly to enable broad flexibility in how our people work.
Structuring for the Future
Every business has had the chance to review its business model and position itself for the future.
Legacy issues and problems likely have been addressed. Most confronting is the associated cash crunch and lack of clarity for planning as there is less room for speculative decisions.
We are determined to stay entrepreneurial – adjust our core activities in line with emergent trends; stay close to our customers; move fast; and pursue new opportunities, while being very deliberate in our decision making.
We all need to stay focused and find innovative new approaches for our businesses; invest in disruptive technologies and where viable, acquire strategic assets.
The competitive landscape is going to increase in complexity. Whilst sadly there have been failures, many established brands are still highly active.
The historic strength of the tourism sector, and the view existing businesses are struggling, has hastened the entrance of fresh players – cashed up and with an eye to the future potential of travel.
Great for consumers and related businesses while invariably one more challenge for incumbents, exciting if tackled with eyes open.
A Sustainable Future
Sustainability is a term we hear constantly. Business is making change to optimise sustainable processes and practices – now non-negotiable. It is an extremely significant issue for destinations and destination management.
We are close to this as our client destinations, particularly Hawaii, make fundamental changes to the way they market to prospective visitors.
Every business will be considering, and where practical, investing in doing things differently. In our case this is via an audit and certification programme and investing in a new regenerative tourism initiative Drop in the Ocean (DitO).
Looking Ahead with Optimism
Access to cash to manage all the revenue setbacks, trading costs and future investment will determine those who succeed.
Many were fortunate to go into the crisis with healthy reserves and/or an ability to tap into additional funding. That capacity continues to be tested as we lurch from one challenge to another.
Despite that, I continue to feel optimistic for the industry and its multiple participants. The future of each tourism business remains unknown but there will be winners and new participants who are able to identify and seize opportunities.
My sincere hope is that our company and clients are in that category and those who read this find their own way of achieving success.
The definition of what constitutes success is as varied as our workplaces, business models and obstacles ahead.
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