Moving from surviving to thriving

Johan Pilon of Zeevou looks at three core ideas which can help businesses become stronger in the face of adversity.

The world is going through turbulent times and the hospitality industry is no exception. Flights and bookings have drastically reduced and a crisis of such nature hasn’t visited our planet for approximately one century. What then, can businesses do in order to not be mere onlookers of an unprecedented crisis and live in a state of continual uncertainty? The answer is not simple, yet there are core ideas that have withstood the test of time and for business and enterprise they are no exception. So instead of jumping into concrete cases straight away, let’s first take a moment to reflect on these ideas and then see how they apply in daily business operations.

The following will be an exploration of three core ideas that not only help businesses to survive, but to thrive.

First of all, adaptation. Adaptation requires flexibility, openness and a willingness to have a humble attitude so that one can receive information, knowledge and expand one’s understanding on a subject or topic of value. It is essential for ensuring that businesses do not miss out on important matters and enables an enterprise to build on experience. Adaptation does not mean that everything that is heard or said is to be taken as useful and implemented, but scrutiny is required and being investigative with each method or model that is presented as a possible revenue booster. If there is not an openness to first receive and listen, how can crucial decisions be made? Adaptation is needed in order to advance quickly and to be timely with the implementation of new strategies.

Second, resilience. Resilience is not about a business being invincible or living the fantasy of never running the risk of dealing with dramatic setbacks, that would be a misunderstanding and wishful thinking, and plainly being out of touch with reality. Resilience calls for a sober and calm approach to setbacks, and intuition is also part of that. With resilience comes the acknowledgement that weaknesses exist and mistakes will be made, however, it is more than just learning from mistakes or seeing weaknesses as opportunities to grow from, resilience asks for a systematic and orderly attitude towards recovery and accelerating the processes of learning. This process of learning applies to each aspect of an enterprise, the individuals comprising it, the organisational structure, the tech and software that is used, the communication processes, all are subject to learning and resilience allows for accelerating progress.

Third, interdependence. Interdependence is both within a business organisation — think for example of the different departments — and obviously businesses as a whole are also interdependent among each other, yet, interdependence should not be confused with abandoning uniqueness or losing touch with authenticity. Interdependence is rather building on mutual strength and deepening trust, it paradoxically aids independence. Cooperation is key, ensuring that processes are reinforcing one another and synergising the overall business operations. There is no question about the significance of enabling a well coordinated sharing of ideas, methods and models both within an organisation and among businesses.

Now let us apply these ideas to a concrete case. Take for example the recent full and partial shutdown of large online travel agencies — the industry was not prepared for such a sudden switch and fully realised its degree of dependency on large booking platforms. What was required? Adaptation. Those businesses that were able to quickly adapt to the circumstances showed that through awareness of their interdependence they had made either the correct preparations and put in place systems that would smooth out the impact, or were able to adapt with a swiftness that ensured an immediate response to the disruption, which is a sign of resilience. Again, resilience is not about being invincible, rather it is about accelerating the learning process, there are no formulas for quick success and only those companies that are willing to make the necessary changes can sail the boat in stormy times. How did businesses adapt? One striking example is that driving up direct bookings became a must and creating awareness of your brand through a direct booking website seemed to take a completely new level of importance.

The degree of dependency on large OTAs was not the only realisation, another one is the sudden awareness of the dependency on tourism coming from other countries. The realisation that domestic tourism and its engagement with the serviced apartment industry is of vital importance for its continuance, what had been neglected for so long, came to the fore and companies had to quickly adapt, reevaluate their position in the market and redesign how they portrayed themselves in the public sphere. A more localised perspective and orientation seemed to be needed in order to grab the attention of local residents and guests from one’s own country.

Having said all of this, it is good to bear in mind that government plays an important role in guiding industries and supporting their efforts so that they will reach full fruition, in order to make sure that this happens, voices and key players in the industry need to be loud and clear so that policy makers become aware of what the needs are, they cannot identify every point of importance by themselves. It is necessary to inform those that are overseeing the industry at the government level, and providing where possible the necessary awareness of circumstances, businesses and government officials need to collaborate and exercise their ability to be innovative and creative when needed.

The previously mentioned ideas are reshaping the industry, all the way from on-the-ground operations to marketing and communication. The world of serviced apartments is redefining what it means to be hospitable and this will no doubt lead to some coming out stronger than ever before. Let this crisis be a wake-up call to not only put the right systems into place, to have the right communication processes and to set up well coordinated departments, but to also have core values and principles ready that allow for adaptation, resilience and to build on an interdependent network of thriving serviced apartment businesses.

Johan Pilon is a partner engagement manager at Zeevou, with a background in business and economics. Passionate about contributing to the frontiers of tech in the serviced apartment industry, he is experienced with both on the ground operations and back-end processes that can leverage and automate core business elements for serviced apartment management.

This story was originally posted 2 years ago on

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