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We are four days into the new year, and nobody wants to be patient.
And they probably shouldn’t, most of all people who work in the travel industry. They want to make the carnage of 2020 a distant memory as fast as they can. Why wouldn’t they? Tens of thousands of jobs lost, businesses failed, growth plans cancelled, and revenues gone forever — amid a climbing death toll. Who wouldn’t want to run away from that to a new start?
But the shared lesson for us all, from those operating major airlines to those hanging on with beachfront souvenir shops, is patience.
The notion of patience in business is sometimes antithetical to being competitive, fiercely first-moving. Wait, and you’ll be punished.
But post-pandemic patience is managing expectations through a new prism, and seeing the opportunity from that view. Too fast, too soon is a recipe for new disasters.
Let’s start with this idea of a return to normal. Just assume nobody is going back to where things stood a year ago. The pandemic made it abundantly clear there is no normal, and there probably wasn’t well before coronavirus became a household word. The world moves fast, and change is constant. The pandemic was a super-charged reminder of that.
The good news is that vaccines are rolling out, but the reality is that we have to get used to more scenarios of one-step-up, two-steps-back. A seamless recovery it will not be.
So enter the long view. This is something we are no stranger to here at Skift. Our founder Rafat Ali has called it a “radical new business model.”
“When every prevailing startup wisdom says move fast and break things, there is value to doing the complete opposite. When everyone wants speed, pivots, scale, fail quick, there is value in focusing on your vision, burrowing deep, and taking time in building. Quality is the end result of patience. Quality is the table-stakes start of longevity. That means reorienting everything patiently to this long-term thinking,” he wrote in an essay celebrating Skift’s 6th anniversary in 2018.
And thinking is what this past year has forced us to do, as it quickly exposed the travel industry’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses that had been there all along. Diversity. Customer relations. The climate. Employee relations. Excesses. And health. The new year offers the chance to work on the fissures we now see even more clearly.
Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern has said the past year gave his company the “courage” to address structural issues. The reward for Expedia, despite reporting more than $2 billion in net losses during the first three quarters of last year, is that investors strongly believe in its future. Shares are trading higher today than they did five years ago.
But the stock markets should be just one guide for expectations.
We paused big time in 2020 and we may need to pause again in 2021. Let’s remember It will be a year of grieving, for what we lost, and of processing, as we learn to carry on. That, we should not lose sight of.
Of the hundreds of pieces we have done this past year at Skift, I am still struck by a story we published early on, in April, about sidelined hotel and travel agency workers and tuk-tuk drivers in Malaysia shifting gears to help plant trees and sell vegetables.
“My job has gone from managing a group of hotels of 200 staff to taking care of them and their families during this crisis,” a hotel executive told us. “I believe this will pay off eventually and everyone will be excited to return to work when recovery comes.”
Somebody a lot better at stringing words together than me once said the two things that define you are your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.
Words to live by in 2021, with renewed hope.