Making a Tourism Destination or Business Resilient
One of today’s buzz words in global tourism is resilience. However, do we as a tourism industry fully understand what it means and how we can apply resilience to the way we run our tourism businesses or market our destinations?
In essence, the term resilience involves the ability to bounce back from adversity and adapt to major changes in our business and marketing environment. Most start up businesses fail within the first year of operation for a variety of reasons. In many cases, a failure to adapt an original business strategy to changes in the technological, economic and business environment is at the heart of those first year casualties. Businesses which survive and grow demonstrate either an instinctive or a strategic understanding of resilience.
I will illustrate the concept with two examples:
1. I have had a long standing association with Thailand and one of things I admire about Thailand and the Tourism Authority of Thailand is its mastery of resilience. If we look at Thailand over the past 20 years it has managed to maintain strong tourism growth despite the Asian Financial crisis of 1997-8, SARS in 2003, The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, political upheavals 2008-10, widespread floods in 2011, terrorist attacks in 2015 and the passing of its esteemed King in 2016. Any one of these events could have triggered a tourism setback which may have lasted for years.
Thailand’s success in dealing with its many challenges has been an ability to respond rapidly to negative events, identify and localize problems and assure its many stakeholders that Thailand remains a viable and hospitable tourism destination. Thailand shows an uncanny ability to adapt its destination marketing to changing circumstances. In October 2016, following the death of the King, many celebratory events were cancelled in Thailand and more than a few media pundits declared Thailand would suffer a decline in tourism. The Thai Tourism Authority immediately adapted its marketing message to appeal to a culturally sensitive market and as a result the party tourists were replaced by a very different type of visitor. Agility and adaptability is central to destination resilience.
Thailand is not alone in demonstrating resilience. Many destinations have successfully adopted the core qualities of resilience with the strong support and encouragement of the UN World Tourism Organization, World Travel and Tourism Council and Pacific Asia Travel Association.
2. Airline multi-branding has proven to be an effective strategy for airlines to ride the wave of changes in consumer demand. Qantas, Virgin Australia Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa have been four of many airlines which have established successful low cost carrier brands in recognition of the growth of consumer demand for low cost carriers. All these companies have maintained their legacy full-service brands. The adaptability of these airlines to appeal to a wide range of markets including the lucrative business travel market and the growing low cost leisure market have guaranteed their viability and success.
Multi-branding is now a common practice in most sectors of the travel industry; including travel agents (Flight Centre Group), wholesalers (The Travel Corporation), on-line booing agencies (Expedia), Hoteliers (Accor and IHG), Cruising (Carnival and Royal Caribbean) ,Attractions (Disney Corporation and Merlin Entertainments). Adaptability is a core element in business resilience.
Resilience applies to small and large businesses. For small businesses, which represent most global tourism businesses, resilience involves the ability to find and nurture a niche in the vast global tourism market and build a reputation for excellence.