As the pandemic started to get real in March, I watched in horror as it began to tear apart the industry I love. People that I thought were vital to their organization announced that their positions were no more. And I’ve cried for too many people that are faced now with uncertain futures.
And the absolute terror of it all paralyzed me.
Through the paralyzation, I went into survival mode. Everyone’s survival mode looks different. Mine is denial and helping. Deny what’s going on and help those that need it. Is it always healthy? Probably not. But when it’s either that or completely falling apart, I’m going to deny and help every time.
So I created a group for the Ohio tourism industry (with the help of Amir Eylon) and then created a weekly educational series for the group with people that I respect in tourism, marketing and public relations. I did this for multiple reasons, but first and foremost was to keep myself feeling alive.
What this resulted in, however, was incredible. People that are technically considered my competitors are reaching out to see how we could work together in the future. People that are not obvious partners are reaching out to see if we could package services together in some way.
Will I take up every opportunity? No. But it’s presented a lot of possibilities that I had never considered and that’s exciting.
So what does this have to do with the tourism industry in general?
Tourism will not have enough resources.
It’s just a fact that coming out of this there will be a whole lot less money to do what needs to be done. Big conferences are canceled and may not be back by the end of this year. Leisure travel is mostly at a stand still right now and likely will only be regional for the rest of the year. That means there is a lot of money gone. For an industry that is always required to be scrappy and make more with less, this will be devestating.
How talented you are won’t matter.
The most talented people in the industry are losing their jobs right now through no fault of their own. Little-to-no money means that no one is safe. It’s a hard fact to swallow that doing everything right and being the model employee is simply not enough. And with so few jobs to go around, it’s likely that we will lose some of the brightest tourism minds to other industries. I honestly feel grief over this every day.
Putting your head down and getting ‘er done in amazing ways is not what will get you through this disaster.
Relationships are what will matter.
I ask the question weekly, “What skills should people focus on building right now?” I’ve heard some great answers. But here’s mine: relationship building.
If that is a weakness of yours, it’s not too late. Start with a short, personal note to your partners. Or get yourself on the phone. I know we all used to hate the phone, but we’re all dying to talk to someone who is not related to us. The phone is good again.
And then start talking to those that are not your partners. Keep expanding the circle as much as possible. That circle is going to be what you rely on as an individual and as a business when we start moving through this pandemic to the new normal.
Innovative collaboration will be what’s next.
When we get to that new normal and you have to start marketing with no budget, collaboration will be the only way that this is going to happen.
Those budgets that scare you right now make more sense when you pool together with someone that is going through the same thing. And your best partners won’t always be those that are most obvious, which is why you need to build your circle as big and varied as possible right now.
The way we package tourism for marketing is about to undergo a drastic change, and you can either be at the forefront of that change by building your relationships now so you can build some new and exciting products in the future. Or you can do things the way you’ve always done and possibly find your organization gone in the future.
So if you’re ready to work on what’s next in tourism, get ready for the bright future of collaboration. It’s going to be different, but I think we’re working towards something really cool.