SINGAPORE, April 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — It’s been just over a year since COVID shook the world, and it has inevitably changed the way we live and work. While the impact has been widespread, the pandemic has also taught businesses valuable lessons. Agoda’s CCO Damien Pfirsch, shares four lessons — ways to make lemonade out of lemons — in a time where the "new normal" is fraught with changes and uncertainty.
Move fast; innovate fast
The pandemic’s unpredictability has intensified the need for businesses to act fast to not only solve problems at hand, but protect and prepare for the future. For example, vaccines would have typically taken years to develop, but companies’ pandemic readiness and response have helped create COVID-19 vaccines in under a year.
Even more than investing in technology that will help us be agile and adapt to the evolving landscape, it’s also about the people driving the technology that’s fundamental. Creating a company culture of innovation and flexibility is crucial, as motivated employees will be empowered to move things along. Companies that will do best are the ones that can innovate across multiple fronts simultaneously and go-to-market in record times, whether it’s across their technology, products, programs or services.
To help businesses pivot and expand their travel offering, at Agoda we worked tirelessly to significantly reduce the amount of time taken — from months to mere weeks — to implement our white label product solutions for partners, as well as developing a comprehensive GoLocal initiative offering domestic deals to help accommodation partners capitalize on the domestic travel market and generate more bookings.
Diversify and embrace opportunities
To effectively deal with a crisis, it’s also necessary to identify opportunities that may arise from it. In a time of disruption and shrinking consumer demand, businesses have been forced to reignite their entrepreneurial fire, reconsider their offering and look for new market gaps they can continue to address. Hotels, for instance, have pivoted to offer novel types of hotel packages to adapt to current trends, such as "work from hotel" and day use packages. Cab drivers in markets like Singapore and Indonesia, which experienced lockdowns, saw a huge dip in customers on the road and partnered with ride hailing platforms to do food delivery instead.
Also, the pandemic led a significant shift in consumer behavior, driving demand for contactless payment and reliance on e-commerce. Fintech players partnered with banks to support traditional merchants, large and small, who lack digital payment methods with the technology to accelerate adoption. Restaurants and hotels instead of reinventing the wheel, tapped on food delivery providers to ensure business continuity.
Unified collaboration between governments, businesses, experts and individuals will remain critical in the recovery and reinvigorating of economic growth in the post-COVID-19 era. The most unlikely of partners could cooperate to help navigate challenges ahead. For example, pharmaceutical giants Merck will be helping Johnson & Johnson produce their single-shot vaccine to boost supply.
Even within the travel industry, post-pandemic has shown us how working together can be hugely beneficial for all parties. At Agoda, we continue to work closely with our sister companies including Booking.com to deliver greater value and increased efficiencies for our partners and travelers, including experimenting with better ways to cross-sell our inventories and tech solutions. Another example is hotels and online travel agents (OTAs) working together to create solutions that address customers’ needs for flexibility and assurance of hygiene. Some hotels might have previously been skeptical about the value of using OTAs, but are now collaborating to help reinvigorate the travel and tourism industry.
Of course, enhanced collaboration between private and public sectors to address short-term and long-term challenges will be key in building resilience and bolstering economic recovery. That could be governments reviewing stimulus measures and policies to protect public welfare, jobs, businesses, and the private sector providing their technology and industry expertise that will help respond to the current landscape. Governments recently tapped on OTAs for their cutting-edge technologies and marketing solutions to boost domestic tourism, such as providing their platform for travelers taking part in the tourism subsidy campaigns, Ttogether Thailand and Go To Travel Japan, as well as automating the booking process for guests to search for and book quarantine hotels in markets like Hong Kong and Thailand.
Play the long game
Last but not least, as with past crises, things will not remain as they are now. It is important that business leaders also set their sights on the long game while maintaining agility to respond to shorter-term needs when necessary — develop talent, relationships, solutions and opportunities that navigate the company closer to its long-term goals.