When the ground shifts, it pays to be agile. That is a consistent message I’ve been hearing over and over again from the travel and tourism industry during this challenging time.
It’s inevitable that many companies have had to make rapid changes and adjustments to their business since the Covid-19 crisis began. But those which appear to get a handle on the unusual situation, some nine months since the pandemic erupted, are those who are able to react quickly to changed circumstances to contain the damage and make the most of new opportunities.
The brightest prospects for tour guides are those who are willing to take on new roles and retrain themselves to wear multiple hats.
Beliefs of how locals will not pay to explore their own cities do not seem to hold for Oriental Travel and Tours, a tour agency based in Singapore. According to founder and managing director Stanley Foo, the outfit is now seeing booming demand for its Creepy Tales of Singapore, a paranormal tour that visits some of the city’s spookiest places but with strong historical and cultural elements interwoven into the immersive after-dark experience.
Foo believes his tour offers the right cultural appeal and uniqueness to attract inquisitive Singaporeans and local residents keen to seek out excitement in the city-state, especially as overseas holidays are currently restricted amid the ongoing pandemic.
Jason Loe, co-founder of Singapore-based Tribe Tours, also shared that he’s seeing encouraging responses from the domestic market since he pivoted his outfit to focus on the FIT segment instead of corporates.
Covid-19 pandemic also led to an existential crisis for his company, not unlike what many other business leaders in the travel sector are facing too. He was close to “pulling the plug” when Singapore’s border closure dried up revenues, but the crisis also forced him to rethink and reevaluate how travel – and his organisation – will be like coming out from this crisis.
“Ready, fire, aim” has since become his mantra as he and his tribe quickly converted product ideas to reality within weeks, and sometimes days, in order to ride on current market trends.
Because of the pandemic, many travel companies had to accelerate their scale and scoop for innovation and creativity. Clearly, staying nimble and agile applies not just for business owners or leaders who have to keep a tighter lid on costs and revenue structures but also applies to anyone working in the travel and tourism industry.
Loe stresses that staying open and nimble to transformation is necessary during such times. As Tribes Tours embarks on livestreaming tours, he shared that some tour guides expressed hesitation at the feasibility and longevity of such a product. “The days of being static guide who leads a tour on a 44-seater bus are gone. There’s no future in that and that’s the truth,” Loe stated. In place, he sees the brightest prospects for tour guides who do not think of themselves as just tour guides but those who are willing to take on new roles and retrain themselves to wear multiple hats.
Embarking on an agile transformation now amid the pandemic is no easy feat, but the crisis could also be the right moment to learn the agility lesson to heart. So if not now, when? Will Covid-19 be the catalyst for travel businesses to accelerate their agile transformation?