Business recovery and continuity in crisis
The tourism industry’s search for solutions must be two-pronged: • One, that we do not trivialize the problem for our traveling markets and gloss over health safety because we want the industry to recover fast; and • Two, that we find solutions and implement actions that will be inclusive, workable, actionable, strategic and compassionate, especially considering the microenterprises, the people’s organizations, the cooperatives, the IPs—and all that form part of the tourism value chain.
The Philippines is on the list of top 10 countries with the highest risk for disasters and crisis. While COVID-19 is the immediate problem, we are warned that other disasters will occur with increasing frequency and severity, especially because of the climate change effect. Therefore, we ought to plan better, not only to bounce back from this crisis but to ensure that we build
resilience into our systems. Let the crisis we are experiencing today be the impetus to be more proactive. The forum yielded helpful suggestions summarized into these three Ms:
MITIGATE to lessen/palliate the immediate negative impact of the COVID-19. There are certain actions that can give quick wins, among them:
• Counter the fears through better communication and greater transparency
• There must be a regular, timely and factual information to feed news sources and other communication outlets. Flood social media with good news; share recoveries rather than additional cases
• Communicate better. Positive actions and showing confidence that there is a problem, but these are being handled well can allay fears and anxiety.
• “Laymanize language” – Have a dialogue with health counterparts for consistency of actions—and caution in communication because what is normal for the health sector is panic-causing for laymen.
• Conduct orientation for employees and families so that their own fears are managed. They can be useful conduits of proper information.
• Handhold the events already awarded to the Philippines; giving extra perks or services so that cancellations (if they are thinking about it) will be a more difficult decision for the clients.
• Instead of cancellations, suggest to customers rebooking—so as not to totally lose the market.
• Offer specialized tourism products for domestic travelers that will not present health risks—open air instead of indoor events, nature tourism, solo travel, forest bathing, farm tourism—these are some options that can be configured in attractive tour packages.
• Widen the circle of experts, people who can come in and help—unity is a major factor—a strong alliance for dedicated to enhancing competitiveness especially cohesive action in disasters that we know will increase in frequency and severity.
MANAGE or addressing the crisis through effective response mechanisms and processes. Having concrete action plans that are executed well boost confidence, for instance:
• If this is not yet ready in your organizations, start preparing (or updating) your enterprise’s crisis management, business continuity and recovery plans. It is already late, but better late than never—or the next casualty will be you—and it’s on you.
• Train continuously, not just reactively, especially within your own enterprises.
• Train front-liners in gateways, in public places in the proper way of handling equipment and doing safety checks.
• We need to continuously learn from every crisis experience and integrate the new information into our planning. These should find their way into the crisis manual, making this a “living” document that is always updated.
MOVE FORWARD or build resiliency and planning for the future. It makes sense that our horizon should be widened to include other possible disaster events that can affect the industry. Making tourism sustainable include adopting measures that can help build a more resilient future for the sector.
• Upgrade/invest on better health scanning equipment at all gateways so that they are accurate yet unobtrusive.
• Study tourism market segments better using data analytics and customize offering and product lines for identified clients. The idea is to differentiate the offering.
• Propose for the allocation of funds that can assist tourism enterprises during times of crisis.
• Multisectoral approach that cuts across agencies is critical, not siloed actions. The problem is too big for one to handle.
Crisis is a test of our composure, resilience, intelligence, strength, innovative spirit and sustainability. It is possible to win in all these fronts and it starts with recognizing that the problem is too big for anyone to do it alone. It is time for cooperation and collaboration, of working with other sectors, and opening our minds to let new ideas come in. The stakes are too high not to. It can spell the difference between survival and extinction of our businesses.
Let us rise above this crisis and its challenges. INQ
The author is chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, former undersecretary of the Department of Tourism and the president of Asean Society Philippines.
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