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Travel and Hospitality: Becoming Adaptive in the Midst of Chaos


The rapid change of 2020 is unlike any we have seen before. And with change brings challenge. Any organization may find it tempting to kick adaptation down the road. However, rapid change is commonplace, in every industry for a variety of reasons, and it happens in the blink of an eye. If an organization hasn’t prepared to adapt and respond to change, they will become increasingly defenseless. 

The pandemic has transformed the economic landscape, and those organizations that have not taken the time to prepare and future-proof now have to respond to that change effectively and with the speed needed to survive.

Industries and businesses have been decimated, but few like the travel and hospitality industry. We’ve seen the statistics: Unemployment rates rising from 3.5% in February to 14.7% by April. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

At the core of economic fallout, the travel industry has accounted for 11% of pre-pandemic employment in the United States, yet suffered 36% of all job losses. For scale, the sheer size of this industry is nearly three times as large as the agriculture sector, with employees in a wide range of frontline and corporate positions. (McKinsey and Company, 2020)

This all leads to one critical question: for a sector that so heavily impacts our global economy, how can leadership improvise and innovate during chaos, and who ultimately leads the charge?

In our white paper for adaptive organizations, our experts outline 10 areas that adaptive organizations focus on to stay resilient through change. Travel and hospitality industries must focus on these areas to recover and thrive in the future.

Adapt and Overcome

It is imperative for an adaptive organization to respond to internal and external conditions with targeted capacity development and continue to iterate processes through change. By focusing on these areas, organizations can create continuous adaptation and resilience.

  1. Put Your People First
    1. Conversations, thoughtful investments, and measurements that target the appropriate level of development should be top priority.
    2. Sarah Danzl of Degreed explains, “The customer experience is your top priority, and it is your employees that will deliver on that promise—so it is important to remember to take care of them [the employees], too.”
  2. Ecosystems Thinking
    1. Seek to evolve and align the elements of the learning ecosystem with a growth mindset.
    2. “The relationship between the employer and employee has changed drastically. Employees now want and demand more out of the relationship. They own their careers now, so it’s important to consider how you will help them grow both inside and outside of your organization.” —Sarah Danzl
  3. Connective Collaboration
    1. Connected and trusted collaboration with any organization is critical. Innovation comes from a team of minds working together.
  4. Purpose-Driven Design
    1. Purpose is necessary. Empathy and design thinking will bring the greatest impact to future planning for recovery or growth.
  5. Problem Seeking
    1. Thoughtful problem articulation is critical to maintaining an adaptive ecosystem. The focus must be on identifying and prioritizing problems through careful consideration of business outcomes. This should be prioritized more than the solution design itself!
  6. Data-Informed Strategy
    1. Data informed strategies are executed through analysis and exploration to plan initiatives based on ROI.
  7. Valued Perception of L&D
    1. Focusing on the free flow of information to and from the organization will foster valued business outcomes.
  8. Ideas and Feedback
    1. New ideas and feedback are required to accelerate development of solutions. Seek feedback and evaluate data constantly without fear of failure.
    2. “To make these transformational changes, you cannot do it with conventional thinking. The corporate culture needs to change completely not only to allow C-suite executives to think differently, but to also encourage good ideas from the rank and file employees.” (Nawal Taneja)
  9. Focus on Outcomes
    1. Being busy and being productive are not equivalent. Pursue positive change rather than reflexively treating symptoms of deeper problems.
  10. Technology is Just One Component
    1. Technology is a tool and an important component, but it is not the solution for every problem. Value the alignment of people, processes, experiences, and analytics. These are underpinned by technology in direct support of business strategy
    2. “Digital solutions can be an effective tool to bridge communication and to create consistency on protocols between governments and the private sector. In China, the health QR code system, which reflects past travel history and contact with infected people, is being widely used during the reopening stage. Travelers have to show their green, government-issued QR code before entering airports, hotels, and attractions. The code is also required for preflight check-in and, at certain destination airports, after landing.” (McKinsey and Company, 2020)

These 10 areas are imperative for the future of travel and hospitality. We brought together experts and leaders in the industry for roundtable discussions, workshops, and presentations surrounding the “journey back” or the next steps in the right direction. Watch the recordings to be a part of the future of travel and tourism and work towards the promotion of prosperity, safety, and success for all.

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Claire Letts and Krissy Jackson

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