Resilient tourism and event businesses

Tourism Operators

In this module, look at key areas, lessons, strategies and case studies to learn how to become a more resilient tourism and event business.

Key learning outcomes:

  • Operating in a V.U.C.A environment
  • Transitioning to new business models
  • How to manage crisis and disasters

Presented by USC Moreton Bay

Resilient Tourism and Event Businesses

Resilient tourism and event businesses

Good morning and welcome. My name is Dr. Aaron Tham. I am the USC Business School Program Coordinator for Tourism, Leisure and Events Management, and also now part of the new USC Moreton Bay campus. Today, my discussion and sharing will be about Resilient Tourism and Event Businesses.

We've seen a lot in the last few years, looking at what the effects of different crisis and disasters have had to all landscapes. We've seen bush fires in the Summer leading on to very quickly and very fast evolving landscapes. The likes of COVID-19 and what is done to the whole tourism and even landscape.

The question I have for each one of us is, do we have what it takes to be resilient?

In this presentation, we would cover the following topics:

  1. Operating in a V.U.C.A environment
  2. Transitioning to new business models
  3. How to manage crisis and disasters

Operating in a V.U.C.A environment

So what does the acronym V.U.C.A mean? Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. In a nutshell, the environment that we're in is dynamic and evolving very quickly. So what does it mean for us as a business?

Some questions to ask ourselves are:

  • How adaptable are these changes from an operating environment on us, both internally and to the external environment?

Some questions to prompt our discussion and reflection:

  • To what extent are we prepared for economic downturns, what's going on in the landscape and managing human resources, and finances and cash flow?
  • To what extend are we prepared for social cultural shifts in the experiences sought, from physical face-to-face to distant and technology enabled?
  • What are the environmental crises that we may be confronting more and more likely into the future? E.g. floods, bush fires, cyclones, earth quakes and many others.

So what do we do in this space? Do we consider ourselves industry leaders or followers? And what are urgent versus important to us and which ones of these do we prioritize?

Transitioning to new business models

This is where we lead to our second topic on transitioning to new business models. It is about crystal ball gazing and looking to the future. Understanding that past and current business models may or may not be as applicable moving to the future.

This is where we try and challenge some assumptions, looking at what might've worked and what the future economy will look like. Looking at the short term, middle and long term futures.

Also paying careful attention to the trends and scenarios of what's happening in the landscape. How are people shopping? Where are they traveling to? What are the signs? What does the media portrayal of tourism and events look like? And what does it mean for our region?

Some of the available data that's on the market, published by large organisations and industry clients, such as Amadeus, talk about the future of tourists. Are they millennials? Are the intergenerational tourists? Do they travel for passion or aspirations? And their engagements with different tourism landscapes tell us some informed stories of how we can position ourselves into the future.

This also then calls on us to be on the front foot. What are the possible ventures or line extensions to our existing products? For example, if you’re a car rental business, do we go laterally and extend our business into campervans?

We also need to weigh where our resources are. Are they available in-house? Do we outsource? Do we collaborate with others to make ourselves a more viable entity? Those things need to be managed in time, in space, and also with the alignment to our organisational priorities.

So what would your customers expect of you as an organisation and where do we see ourselves in this new normal? Which many people have called this year.

We want to ask ourselves what the blue ocean is. And essentially blue oceans ask to think of where we may be able to redefine and radically challenged the market to make existing competition obsolete. Think about Airbnb and Uber. They do not own any assets of fleet by themselves, but yet control a vast proportion of the market space in the accommodation and ride share business.

What are the partners or agencies to leverage our mutual capabilities? Could it be a film company? Could it be someone who's delivering food to your potential clients? Would it be somebody doing virtual reality? These are some important questions who take us into this new future.

What are the perspectives and arguments for new value creation or co-creation? How do our customers work with us, where customers tell us what they don't need and what we therefore should eliminate? How do we then streamline certain levels of bureaucracy to enable more efficient ways to think about operations? How would we actually increase personalisation? Perhaps it might be through social media or websites that can customize preferences at once, and storing of big data to allow us to tell new patterns about how people engage, where they go on the weekends, or their days off?

How do we then create niche experiences? Could it be to storytelling? Could it be to gamification? And this then provides an extra incentive for tourists and visitors to actually visit our destination over and over again.

Thinking outside the box

So this really calls for us as a resilient business to think outside the box. We need to think of ways to co-brand how we can actually become a stronger market entity, whether it be through retail, accommodation, restaurant, catering, and entertainment services. It could be through partnership with sister cities and regions. Potentially here on the Moreton Bay it might be to some of our partners in the Japan or Asia region.

Thinking of circular green economies. This is a new emerging area. With the large number of unemployment and people facing challenges related to job certainty, this might be a way for tourism and events businesses to work with those with the skillsets, to offer some form of complimentary creation of value, to enable them to both leverage out of their skills and abilities.

Also the diversification of experiences. How about in Woodford? Separating the whole entire event into different pockets to enable people to have a similar experience in their own backyard perhaps, or in a smaller community hall where still safe to do so. A recent example here is the use of the Ekka, where they've allowed strawberry sundaes and dagwood dogs at popup stores. And that could be one way to actually continue to keep the spirit of some of these community in large scale events, up and running.

How to manage crisis and disasters

This leads on to our third discussion of how we manage crisis and disasters. There are several stages to look at when we look at crisis and disaster management.

The first important stage is what do we do with our training induction of our workforce to deal with this. And this is even before the crisis or disaster has hit a destination or region. Are there manuals in place? Do people know what should be done when they are at risk of simulating? For example, an earthquake, cyclone or terrorist attack. These things should be prepared just as we would prepare for a fire evacuation.

What about an emergency contingency plan? Have we got plans in place to take our staff resources, assets, and enable them to be stored in safe places, as well as for visitors? Are we able to communicate with our tourists and visitors who may not necessarily speak English as a first language? And that's where the potential for apps and online resources into different languages will be quite useful. We look at what has been done in COVID-19 where places like Melbourne have had to translate many of the resources and materials to different languages, because we know we are now operating in very cultural and linguistically diverse communities.

We also need to work very closely with local authorities. Who's going to be at the front and communicating a strategic and coherent body of information around the notion of crisis management? Where does this data come from? Is it Queensland Health, Queensland Transport, or the local police force?

So essentially we've got the three stages of crisis management.

  • Pre-crisis: Before it hits
  • In-crisis: where the crisis is ongoing, and therefore we need to then think of ways to manage its spread and its impact
  • Post-crisis: where the event has finished. Tourists may have gone back to the home country or safe region, but we want to still be able to engage all our stakeholders to eventually bring them back when it is safe to do so.

This is where communication channels need to be clear and coherent. We need to continue to think of who else might be in this landscape. Could be the airlines, hotels or restaurants? This is where some of the upcoming case studies will show us a little bit about how communication has been done both verbally, print, and digitally as well. This helps to inform that we have our traction and understanding who are some of these influences, and how can they be word of mouth marketing for us into the future.

Then we also need to do some post-crisis debriefs, understanding what has happened, and take action steps to enhance some of our crisis management footprints into the future.

Finally, the area of post-crisis marketing and PR come in, and this is where brands become stronger learning from the past. We know that crisis and disasters are inevitable parts of the tourism and events landscape. However, we can certainly come back stronger. It’s important to understand how this could be one way to actually drive our business, because there are signs that the tourist industry and the events industry have been resilient over the long time and the tourists will likely come back, because they value some of the magical experiences they have had in the geographic region.

Working closely with stakeholders

So, how do we work closer with our stakeholders? Here are some examples and tips of where we might be able to find some relevant resources.

  • Government websites (Dep. of Tourism, Small Business, and Commonwealth Games)
  • Industry advocacy groups (QTIC and Climate Change Mitigation)
  • Tourism forums disseminated by associations such as Pacific Asia Tourism Association (PATA)
  • Partnership with Tourism Australia such as the post bushfire campaign ‘Holiday Here This Year’
  • State and Regional COVID-Safe Plans
  • Organisations with case studies

Resilience characteristics

Here are some of the resilience characteristics:

  • Accepts change: understanding that these things are going to be inevitable. But also for us to think of ways that we can actually become stronger and learn from some of the best practices or good practices.
  • Demonstrates agility and speed of response: how we might be able to demonstrate this based on where we see our next possible, trend might be or how we can actually pivot ourselves to areas where there are going to be key markets and still enable our business to flourish.
  • Seizes the opportunities within the imminent challenges: What are the opportunities and yet also within somewhat immediate challenges, could we actually have some recorded or 3d images of some of our experiences to take people on to our digital platforms.
  • Accepts that no action is probably the worst action of all: This is not a time to take inaction because clearly as an industry, we recognize that 70 to 80% of our businesses are small to medium enterprises that require the flow of visitor numbers to keep us afloat.
  • Creates good/best practices to inform policy and practice: Our policies are there. Sometimes they may not necessarily be clear, but this is our way to perhaps inform and guide others who may be following this space.
  • Takes steps to mitigate future risks: No one knows when the vaccine for COVID will be, or when the next bushfire season will look like. We, therefore, want to think of ways to future proof our businesses.
  • Leads and empowers staff: understanding that people in line managers or authority levels may or may not be the persons to actually lead in a time of crisis. So trust your staff, empower them, and allow them to stand up during these times of adversity. These are the times when people show true courage and leadership, and it is also when we witnessed that some of them take key decisions, understanding that they are the coalface of working with consumers.

Case study 1: Moreton Bay Tough

One of the case studies that I would like to highlight is the notion of Moreton Bay Tough.

It was a simple campaign, but it was powerful in its messaging with all the different stakeholders that came together. This was a story to say that, yes, the industry is suffering and challenged by some of the landscape so far, but certainly we are able to hang out and become stronger and leverage on one another. Through its powerful platforms; social media, YouTube channels, and many others,

these are ways to also showcase a destination and tell people that, yes, we're still here and we're still here when the going gets tough.

So this is one area where I encourage you to look at these resources as a way to showcase a business.

Case study 2: Moreton Distillery Hand Sanitiser

A second case study in point is the use of where your current assets might be. New, simple ways of innovation in areas where I would call a low hanging fruit. The picture that you see on the screen is on modern distilleries, and how they've actually been able to use their supplies of alcohol to turn that into hand sanitizers, to feed a given need in these current times. Many others in this industry have done a similar process, and approached Queensland health to say, well, we've got all these supplies of alcohol that are hospital grade. Can we turn that into health resources to support a key market? And certainly this has been an area which has been of short supply across the country, at least for the last couple of months. And now we are able to do so.

What are some of this learning practices from some of these organisations?

  • Assess market of possible adaptation
  • Draw on available resource within organization
  • Seek approval to modify brand extension
  • Produce viable quantity and seek to meet anticipated market demands
  • Create alternative forms of revenue of offset downturn in mainstream operations
  • Generate top-of-mind brand outcomes
  • Leverage on media and word-of-mouth publicity

Building long-term legacies

Another area we want to think about is how we may create long-term future legacies for our communities, our regions, and beyond. The example here is to also look at the investments during times of crisis, where you can make real key, strategic and coherent rules in the area of sport, women and looking at long-term sporting legacies.

The recent announcement where Brisbane Roar will create a women's soccer Academy here in the Moreton Bay Region offers us some unique landscapes as well as strategies how we might be able to be resilient into the long-term.

  • Leverage on contemporary topics and opportunities (e.g. Australia and New Zealand winning the bid to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023)
  • Partner and drive key national/state/regional agenda (e.g. Women in Sport)
  • Explore a wider application of infrastructural investment by broader societal groups
  • Induce public-private partnerships/sponsorships
  • Grow regional awareness and interest

Pulling it all together

So in summary, what we've done is to look at ways to quantify what we are looking at in terms of a crisis or disaster environment; how we might be able to manage some of these landscapes as they unfold; and looking at some of the good or best practices that exists in this current landscape.

This is about, for us, not so much in the area of being prescriptive, but also a very iterative and contextual based landscape. Do what you need to do with the resources that you have. And continue to be supported as a collegial environment where people are working in the tourism and events community that is fairly much together in one coherent whole.

Finally, on that note, also look at where you may be able to take some time to reflect and assess. Evaluate yourselves in terms of some of these transition indexes that are available for you to undertake your own time. Thank you, and I look forward to working with many of you in the area of tourism and events resilience.

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