I am staying in a hotel in Jesmond, Newcastle, and had to sign a disclaimer when I arrived on where I had travelled recently, which brought the crisis home. How are operators, and indeed suppliers and agencies, dealing with the potential impact of the coronavirus on their businesses? They have many potential scenarios to consider.
Team members are likely to be concerned about their own health as well as the well-being of their family here and abroad. There are many unknowns that could cause worry and distress. We all know the feeling of helplessness that can come with illness, how long it can take to get back on our feet and how it can dent our self-confidence and self-belief over time.
I think many will also be concerned about the impact of being unable to travel to work or earn money for reasons outside their control. If schools are forced to close, childcare could be an issue for a great number of families. For those who depend on overtime, tips or bonuses to pay for basic living, this will be a very worrying time.
As employers it’s critical we keep our teams informed on how to prepare, prevent and potentially cope with the disease on a regular, almost daily basis – without causing panic. The World Health Organisation and the NHS publish daily guidelines but it’s also useful to understand what worries your team most regarding the virus and what would help them through the situation.
Just as importantly we need to advise teams what might happen financially and reassure them regarding insurance, pay and benefits if our business is hit by lost revenue. We don’t always know what goes on in the private lives of those we work with and not everyone will want to talk about it, but understanding, compassion and kindness to those suffering any sort of anxiety will be key in the next few weeks and months.
The impact of the virus could be felt by many people financially, especially those in other industries who rely on overtime, tips or bonuses. They will be worried too. Spending on luxuries such as a meal out could be placed on the back-burner for a while until uncertainly around potential income is sorted.
Many are likely to minimise all but vital travel, cancel attendance at large events and avoid public places. I hear one company in our sector has stopped all its employees travelling into London for work purposes. They will work from home more. Delivery could be a blessing to more customers than ever.
The enormous amount of media hype is difficult to ignore. Of course some customers will carry on doing what they do regardless but for others the virus will start to affect their daily lives.
Our suppliers and supply chain
It doesn’t need saying – this is an extraordinarily challenging time for the supply chain. Relationships built over time with great suppliers (Reynolds was quoted to me yesterday as being exemplary in its handling of crisis) will pay dividends in helping operators see their way through this. The impact on supply, quality, pricing and margins is unknown – but flexibility will be key.
Every day I’m hearing events in pubs, bars and restaurants have been cancelled and we’ve just had to cancel our own pub-marketing workshop planned for later this month. Of course cancelling events may be an over-reaction, but it is understandable.
There’s no easy answer to recovering lost covers – I wish there was. Teams need to be reassured life will resume, customers will come back and sales will return. It’s just a matter of time and work can be carried out now to prepare for that.
When I posted about the virus earlier this week, one respondent wrote: “In today’s information age the hyperbole doing the rounds from desktop experts gets distorted with every telling to present a doomsday scenario. While most people are smart enough to see some semblance of fact, there’s always the ‘what if’ so people stop casual dates, discretionary travel, ad-hoc cinema-going and put some extra tinned goods, rice and toilet paper in the trolley. If you times that by the population, we have recessionary behaviour and painful P&L. Then businesses add in masks, viral sanitisers and individually packaged goods and stop sharing items because the ‘what if’ restarts the cycle. I think it’s right to be afraid. This is going to hurt the industry, if not particularly the population (statistically speaking).”
As international tourism declines rapidly, domestic tourism may increase – I hope so.