THE TOUGHEST JOB UNDER CORONA – CEOs and managers in the tourism and hospitality industries

In the hard-hit tourism and hospitality industries, CEOs and managers must confront their own demons as much as they have to help their staff overcome theirs.  When staff is worried about their future, they become hyper-focused on every move of their superiors.

Recently a staff member asked: “When are you laying us off?” The question surprised me. During lockdown last year, as a team, we decided to work short-time and make the required sacrifices to keep our doors open until the return of overseas tourists.  Nobody foresaw a two-year tourism hiatus.   Ourselves and others in the industry thus have to re-gear our businesses.  Layoffs and liquidations, despite previous undertakings, have become a reality to many.

Guidelines for CEOs and Managers in the time of Corona.

*  Firstly, you need to see through this current veil of uncertainty, realize that tourism will return, and be prepared for the long haul.

*  Secondly, identify the opportunities which invariably appear in a rapidly changing world.  Develop a new business strategy and use this crisis to beat competitors.

*  Thirdly, prepare for difficult decisions and transformation efforts.  If layoffs are inevitable, use professional help and do so with empathy. If you have to reduce services and amenities, do so in small steps to prevent the alienation of customers.
Focus on your existing client base and stick to your reduced budget.
Build critical capabilities, increase accountability and adjust the pace of change according to your company’s ability.

*Fourthly, the CEO’s, or manager’s most significant challenge during an existential crisis is to keep staff motivated and effective. You have to create a psychological environment where your team can operate and make decisions without fear or anxiety.  The little things you say and do can instil calm or cause panic. Stay calm and collected, and communicate with staff now more than in the past.
Gently call out cynical and hostile staff, identify rumour-mongers who are spreading fear and misguided assumptions.

*Fifthly: Get your staff vaccinated. You may have the legal right to insist thereon, if not, remove unvaccinated staff from personal contact with overseas visitors. You must be able to offer visitors a COVID-free service.  Above all, set an example in adhering to CIVOD protocols.
Where applicable, work with unions and other stakeholders to provide the communication, training and stress-level monitoring to get everyone safely and productively back to work and ready to embrace and build new processes and priorities.

*Sixthly:  Streamline your business by introducing modern operating systems and create digital customer relationships.  Test, adapt and scale new projects.
Technology, unfortunately, is not the panacea for all COVID challenges, but without an extensive modern digital agenda, few companies will survive this crisis.