In keeping with the theme of looking at businesses striving to succeed in a challenging business environment, it is time to take a look at the accommodation sector. Last week I read an interesting article about the decline of the 'business trip' on the basis of concern over steering clear of a certain virus and also on the back of the increase in prominence of virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Skype.
I have found that, over the last six months, I have used these tools more often than I anticipated when our hard lockdown took effect.
There are pluses and minuses of these – sure, the meeting can continue and in some cases I have found that the time efficiency has increased but there is something to be said for being 'in person' and also there is risk of inattention when people can mute themselves or turn off their camera.
With this connectivity and tight budgets / cashflow (especially for small and medium businesses) there is a financial saving of remaining at home base and not engaging in travel to attend meetings.
As a result, transport providers and associated businesses such as accommodation and hospitality are impacted when travel is not incurred.
So, like all businesses in these types of situations, there is a need for innovation because in many cases the businesses which serve travellers have high capital investment, often have debt funding and also operational costs that are reasonably well locked in.
The first is to understand that there are a number of business undertakings where travel will continue – movement of workers for 'shovel ready' projects and also salespeople (video conferencing will never replace the practical physical introduction of a product to buyer) will continue. Also, if you look hard enough, there will be opportunities to better utilise assets if you think laterally.
Over the last few weeks I have been working with Gary from Anndion Lodge, a unique and iconic provider of accommodation here in Whanganui.
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Since taking over from the previous owners he has defined his vision and worked hard to set the business up for the future. Like many in the sector, lockdown brought challenges but also opportunities and, in the marketing plan that we are developing together, we have identified spaces of opportunity for the business to move into. The business can provide more than accommodation, it can also host functions and conferences in its facilities.
There have also been some changes in the market landscape here – particularly the move to regional travel by Kiwis because of closed borders and also some smart promotion attracting visitors directly.
Gary and the team are building on the current foundation and, while acknowledging the uncertainty which will likely continue for a while at least, are setting a course based on great service and going to where the market 'is at'. They have also worked hard to built strong and positive relationships in the community which is something a number of smart operators are also doing.
And this is true for many other businesses both in the sector and throughout the regional economy where change is occurring quickly – keeping a step ahead of change or carving your own path while that change is occurring.