2009 a cause for ‘change’ not ‘concern’ in Tourism Industry
Tuesday 6 January 2009
Strategic Futurist Marcus Barber discusses the potential 2009 outlook for the Tourism Industry in Australia: One of the great things about sudden disruptions to our entrenched models of behaviour is the opportunity they provide to assess what it is we have been doing, and whether the things we have been doing have been blinding us to better opportunities. Although the popular thinking is that businesses try to run at maximum effectiveness, the reality is far less comforting. Instead, at best most businesses aim for maximum efficiency and efficiency is about entrenching repetition of behaviours because repeating the same things over and over again should, the thinking seems to go, get cheaper over time. And by and large I suspect that such a model holds true. For a while...
Things get a little dicey however the longer we allow this type of thinking to continue because we create behavioural ‘trends’ (habits) and tend not to question whether those behaviours are still providing the same type of value and returns they once were. This is why the idea of ‘change’ for most businesses is so incredibly difficult – the longer we allow efficiencies to run, the more likely it is that we will get seriously affected by a change in circumstances.
And so it is for the Tourism Industry in Australia. There is no doubt that the change in economic circumstances around the globe will have an impact, but that impact need not be a negative one. 2009 is likely to see some operators fall by the way side as a result of a downturn in the number of inbound tourists to Australia. Yet the downturn in numbers will not be the major cause of the challenge – it will be the lack of readiness (willingness?) of the business to change its focus on a newly emerging market place and to cater for them accordingly.
The big hits will occur to Tourism operators with habits that see them relying upon certain classes of tourists (say ‘Japanese travellers’) and who fail to broaden their offerings to alternative visitors. The big hits will occur to large scale Conference venues that continue to charge ridiculous fees for venue hire at a time when many conference organisers cannot bank on the same number of people coming to conferences overseas or even within Australia. The smart ones are already acting to build in increased incentives or lower fees for a lock-in opportunity. The less than smart ones will continue to simply fax through ‘cookie cutter’ offerings for conference venue hire, room rates and food & beverage costs expecting that they can still dictate terms to conference organisers.
In Australia most Tourism operators will need to change quite decidedly how they engage with the LOCAL marketplace because people in Australia will still want to travel. Operators that build relationships with their customers will be far better placed – they will reap the rewards of more proactive word of mouth business because in times of economic stress, people talk more openly about where their friends should go to get a good deal or great service.
Yes there are some operators who will not recover – even in good times operators go out of business due to poorly structured business models and execution. But 2009 need not be one of gloom for the Tourism Industry in Australia – instead it is an opportunity for many operators to tap the latent build up of desire for people to see their own country or see those places that have significant meaning for Australians and those operators that make that idea a 'trip of a lifetime opportunity' will be very well placed.
Those that do not, who focus on the downturn as the cause of their woes, will simply fade into oblivion. 2009 will be a time of change in the Tourism sector. It need not be ‘carnage’.
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