Good! Says the ever-optimistic inner voice’

An Insider’s Diary of the Lockdown: MANAS SINHA, Director of ISA Tourism Pvt. Ltd., pens down his experience of the lockdown exclusively for TnH:

We are going through an ‘unprecedented’ tiring time. The on-going lockdown has severely affected our business and life. Almost all economic activities are on hold. Offices are closed. Confined to live a 24X7 indoor life, we have been mandated to work from home. Although not encouraged in normal time, today’s organizations have no option but to allow their employees to work from home.

What a favourable setting it is to work in!

You are working from the comfort of your bed or couches, in your comfy casual wear, without the hassle of getting ready!  Skipping all the daily struggle of commuting under pressure to reach the workplace at a definite time. You have unlimited tea or coffee breaks, favourite music in the background, no interruption by colleagues or even boss J,  and yet get paid your full salary!

It sounds like coming true of a cherished dream of life!!  This dream has indeed come true for many by the forced lockdown and Work-From-Home mandated by the Government. We, at the ISA Tourism team, voluntarily went on WFH mode from 14th March, much before the enforcement of the lockdown.

Notwithstanding the joy of WFH, few of us had bargained for the loss of essential features of a standard our work-life, i.e, dressed formally, looking and feeling good, interacting with people, disconnecting from home, etc.

My experience of working from home is no different from others. Initial few days went by in catching up on the work backlog and getting the ‘to-do’ list ticked off, aside periodic group video chat with the team and business associates.

Meanwhile, the entire world went into the lockdown mode and tourism activities came to a standstill. So there is no addition in my ‘to-do’ list. It finally dawned upon me that we and our colleagues in tourism space cannot do any meaningful work since the entire world is reeling under the Covid-19 crisis.

Good! Says the ever-optimistic inner voice. It will allow me and my team some free time to indulge in the hobbies we have forgotten, catch up on that movie or sports video saved long-time ago and finally read that book. And everyone is getting fully paid and is upbeat. In this way the month of March came to end, and so came the end of Financial year 2020, on a WFH mode.

Then came April-20 and reality started to kick-in hard. Lack of outdoor activities is discomforting; body and muscles are getting stiff despite routine efforts of exercise. For 2 months now, there has been no income, no revenue to the company. Everyone realizes that no meaningful contribution were made since February of this year; only facilitating cancellations during Feb-March.

Over 150 countries around the world are under lockdown, no new business emails or queries, travel partners are holding solemn to low sentiments and tourism being the last discretionary expense, a long tumultuous road ahead is staring back!

In all likelihood, the lockdown in India will be extended till the end of April. My take is that all tourism professionals undergoing this unprecedented home-lockdown work-standstill must get into a fixed daily routine to manage the rest of the days or weeks.

First, invest in yourself – health, wellness, fitness, learning, harness your skills or acquire new ones and enjoy all those little but vital pleasures of life. Preparedness is the first step to success.

Second, invest on the family, loved ones, home – talk more, listen more, care more, love more, thank more, support more and receive back more of it all. Strengthen the bond of togetherness, revive empathy and solace. Rearrange your house. Connect more with distant friends and family over phone, video chat et al.

Thirdly, develop the innate sense of gratitude. Thank Mother Nature and the divine power for whatever life you are bestowed with. There are billions devoid of your type of quality life. Pray and send good wishes to the essential services workforce, medical and security persons risking their peace and comfort out there to have you safe and indoors.

Be vocal and mention or email your appreciation and encouragement also to your colleagues and bosses. Yes, bosses or superiors too need validation during such hard times. Somehow we miss this aspect in our routine life. Can you recall the last time you were truly grateful to your superior and expressed it from your heart?

Leisure Travel and tourism, though the last discretionary spend, has become essential part of life. Therefore the industry is bound to bounce back. The issue is not about How but more of When? From the time this virus scare subsides, my guesstimate is that we are looking at a window of 6 months to 1 year as road to recovery. Initially, we may see spike in business travel but recovery in MICE and leisure travel will be a longer process.

I do believe that every challenging phase contains an opportunity. In good times we all are engrossed in milking the process and do not pay attention to possibilities. Therefore, difficult times force us to revisit what we do, restructure how we do it, identify the value gaps and thereby innovate. Subsequently, more innovations come out during crisis instead of being an inherent culture of any organization.

Immediate need in the each vertical in the tourism landscape is to introspect and analyse what has given them lifeline till now. Will that happen again? Can you, your firm survive for 6months with no income?

Those on weak grounds, working in tourism so far without any unique strength; this is a good time for you to exit and explore newer pastures, else you biz will get killed anyway. Those sure of competence and strength must work on a BCP i.e. a Business Continuity Plan, keeping in mind the following objectives:

Consolidation: All Tourism stakeholders must get into a collaborative mode, to pool the marketing funds for wider and quicker outreach. Remember, number of customers is always more than number of competitors.

Refresh: The product offerings, tour inclusions, attractions and experiences should be redefined to incite desires and aspirations of future travellers. Make the team speak more balanced, optimistic language with deeper understandings.

Alignment: Your products, target customer and target market must align to the tourism industry goals and government goals in the long run. Read the signals and adhere to it. The time of being a lone-warrior is passé!

Agility: The speed of – plan to market, quality, flexibility and capability to readjust quickly will create new market leaders  of those who will add tangible value to both ends of the tourism value chain.

For our comeback after normalcy returns, we have started working on a BCP (Business Continuity Plan) considering various timelines and windows of opportunities in line with the objectives suggested above. One also needs to re-evaluate what part of the erstwhile normalcy is still relevant. We will undergo restructuring in work process, manning and responsibilities, KRAs, terms of engagement, accountability etc, all is in process. We are aware that comeback will be slow and sluggish; hence we are preparing for the long term goals with well thought of short-term milestones.

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