Change Management Approach   

Anticipation and responsiveness are key principles for businesses responding to this crisis in the travel and tourism industry. The future is unpredictable but you can reduce uncertainty by tracking the most reliable indicators available to you during the period of change and recovery. Remember that recovery does not mean a return to the status quo so a change management approach is essential. 

A helpful model for understanding and managing change has been devised by John P Kotter. Each stage acknowledges a key change management principle identified by Kotter. People see, feel and then change.

Kotter’s eight step change model can be summarized as:

  1. Increase urgency: inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.
  2. Build the guiding team: get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.
  3. Get the vision right: Get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy, focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
  4. Communicate for buy-in: Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people’s needs. De-clutter communications – make technology work for you rather than against.
  5. Empower action: Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders – reward and recognize progress and achievements.
  6. Create short-term wins: Set aims that are easy to achieve – in bite-size chunks. Ensure a manageable number of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
  7. Don’t let up: Foster and encourage determination and persistence – ongoing change – encourage ongoing progress reporting – highlight achieved and future milestones.
  8. Make change stick: Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, and new change leaders. Weave change into culture.

Change management in the COVID-19 crisis  

Continuity and change can be complementary, at odds, or some combination of both during times of crisis and the ideal balance of the two is what constitutes effective adaptation. Here are some tips to navigate forced change management and adjust business continuity plans amid COVID-19:

  1. Focus on the big picture: The strategic business goals and objectives that mattered yesterday matter more now although their implementation may need adjustment. Strategies may change, but stay focused on the big picture and the needs of your consumers.
  2. Adapt to new methods of productivity: This may include building new virtual dashboards on progress or, as previously mentioned, adjusting performance metrics. Where possible remote working and/or meetings should be implemented. Be flexible and support your team, your partners, and your consumers as much as possible.
  3. Speak clearly and concisely: Creating a structured communications format and setting expectations for remote work (if implementing this is practical for your business) will help with focus and productivity during times of crisis.
  4. Increase means for employees and partners to raise issues or concerns: This will help you gauge communications effectiveness, adoption and areas of resistance. In times of uncertainty and unprecedented circumstances, this can also stoke innovation and brainstorming among affected and interconnected industries (e.g. hospitality, restaurants, transport).
  5. Enable continuous improvement: Training and development, such as virtual team/partner management coaching and collaboration management, can help your organization pivot, adopt new ways of working and create efficiencies.
  6. Build in elasticity: As you adjust your business continuity plans for the now, ensure your programs and offerings are sustainable for the long-term—with the ability to evolve in response to developments. Be prepared for crises to happen again and ensure you are in a leading position to weather it when they do.

Supporting your stakeholder community

For any business but particularly in the travel and tourism sector, your partners and stakeholders will be vital for recovery. Travel and tourism is highly connected so a collaborative value chain is a key element in building not only a more resilient business but an enduring destination. Stakeholder management in times of crisis is likely to encompass a number of imperatives:

  • Partner public relations: Develop public relations strategies and implement them at the level of your partners and consumer community to talk about the benefits of travel and to remind people to welcome tourists when the time is right.
  • Care for your communities: Look after affected people where possible. The measure of a collaborative enterprise will be supporting affected communities.
  • Support to the vulnerable: Offer support to the elderly and most affected through the delivery of food or shopping (as relevant) or undertaking critical tasks that require equipment to which your business has access – we are all in this together. 
  • Collaborate with health authorities: Work closely with health authorities and adhere to regulations, play your role in raising awareness of risk mitigation measures.
  • Capacity-building: Offer training and development for people to develop skills and work closely with you in the future.
  • Support essential services: Deliver food and offer hospitality to front-line workers (as relevant).
  • Safety measures among partner: Travellers will also take a particular interest in what your partners are implementing to ensure their safety. Collaborate with your partners to create and communicate plans that address health and safety.
  • Provide an information hub: If possible take the role as a collaborative hub for partners to share information and best practices. This could include resources available to both the people affected through increased unemployment and partner organizations themselves. Providing access to these resources can ease the impact of this crisis and improve the chance for individuals and organizations to rejoin the industry along with the benefit of their knowledge and skills. 
  • Review and promote social distance-compliant activities: Review your products and itineraries and determine what to share with locals to encourage activities they can do while practicing physical distancing. These can also help drive “pride-in-place” among your residents and help reinforce your brand.
  • Public welfare activities: Launch activities for front line workers so they can gain free or heavily discounted entry to tourism attractions or scenic spots – this is also complementary to building loyalty, advocacy, and goodwill among your local community with whom you have a relationship of mutual interdependence in these challenging times.
  • Boost collaboration: Foster cooperation and trust between and with industry and non-industry partners at large, including NGOs, local government, and community organizations.
  • Map closures in your network: Create a workflow to review what businesses are temporarily or permanently shutting down, so this does not become a significant task that interrupts your plans when you resume operations.
  • Coordinate with development organizations: Work with your local chambers and economic development offices to share resources and coordinate joint messaging.

Innovation approaches to prepare for a crisis   

With every crisis comes myriad opportunities for innovation and creative responses to changing needs. Emerging niches will lead the agenda in the coming years. This can be a difficult realization for such a hard-hit sector, but winners will inevitably emerge from this crisis and they will set the agenda for the post-COVID industry.

The lack of a clear innovation strategy is a fundamental problem when responding to unforeseen events. Innovation is often misunderstood as something you do when things are going well. However, times of crisis are in fact fertile ground for innovation. Don’t be intimidated into trying to maintain the status quo – this is the time to think outside of the box.

What is Innovation Strategy?

Innovation is about creating new value that people are willing to use and pay for, whereas strategy is the plan for harnessing, for example, marketing, operations, finance and R&D to achieve a competitive goal.

Building innovation into your strategy development process starts with making a deliberate choice of focusing on the best possible way to achieve goals as well as justifying the reasons behind that choice.

Innovation approaches – Business Model Innovation  

Business model innovation has been defined as “the art of enhancing advantage and value creation by making simultaneous — and mutually supportive — changes both to an organization’s value proposition to customers and to its underlying operating model.” This framework provides a compelling case for harnessing a crisis as an innovation push.

The primary goal of business model innovation is to realize new revenue sources by improving product value and how products are delivered to customers. Business model innovation requires a deep understanding of your business’s competitive advantage and can be approached in four different ways.

There are already champions emerging within the travel and tourism industry who have harnessed this crisis and differentiated themselves in their innovative response to this crisis. 

Ask yourself where your business sits on these axes to help define your response.

Establishing innovation techniques and systems  

It is vital to define which innovation techniques and systems are needed to link your innovation infrastructure elements together. What are the most important systems that support and help measure the results of your strategy? In times of stability, testing and reverse-engineering of strategies can help accomplish this, however, a crisis provides an open real-time innovation field-test, if managed correctly. Consider the following aspects:

By breaking down the decision-making chain in this way, you can develop resilience against panic. Take a step back and break down your business’s response to each of the emerging constraints and requirements to foster leadership.