Suddenly, everything is very different than I had imagined for this year. All plans are suddenly wasted. 2020 should be a year full of exciting plans, projects and goals for me, for Saint Elmo's Tourismmarketing, for our customers and partners. Which was reflected in a calendar that was well filled with meetings, workshops, trade fairs and events. Then the corona virus came ...
The shock: crisis mode instead of optimism for change
I really became aware of the dimension of the corona epidemic when the crisis hit our colleagues in Italy at the end of February. The threat was suddenly close and palpable. When the cancellation of the world's largest international tourism fair ITB followed shortly afterwards, the next escalation level was reached. At that moment, we felt that the year would be fundamentally different for our industry than the previous ones.
In the first weeks of March, South Tyrol and several regions in Austria ended the winter season prematurely. Hotels, mountain railways, everything closed, popular tourist resorts became ghost towns. Many of our colleagues in Italy and Austria were no longer allowed to leave their region. Instead of the high season that is usual for us as an agency at this time of year, we found ourselves in an unprecedented crisis from one moment to the next.
Working in shutdown: New work at an advantage
More than five years ago, the team from Saint Elmo's Tourismmarketing set off on a trip to New Work and has already reached important milestones. Our newly defined corporate culture, our practiced new work approaches and the high degree of digitization are now proving to be a major strength of our agency. Because the values of agility, flexibility and mobility are challenged more than ever in this crisis.
Our colleagues have been used to work on the move for quite a while. Project management, meetings and data exchange have long been digitized, programs such as Microsoft Teams, Trello and clear mobile office rules have been established. Nobody was prepared for an exceptional situation like the corona crisis. The shutdown required new rules. An even stronger cooperation is needed in order not to endanger the feeling of solidarity and the corporate culture. Not an easy task when fears and concerns about the future grow daily in the entire team.
How does leadership work in such a situation? How do you solve problems in times of insecurity and uncertainty? How do you manage to make important and far-reaching decisions quickly and with constantly changing conditions?
Crisis management: people and culture set the course
Even in this existential crisis, we remain loyal to our new corporate culture and focus on people. We have decided not to give notice of termination and to take the entire crew onto the Saint Elmo's Tourismmarketing ship with them for the next few months. In order to secure the company and the jobs, all colleagues went into short-time work and the management cut their own salaries. Each individual now has to personally show their own colors and act as part of the company in solidarity so that we don't lose any team members.
This also means that we currently have a hiring freeze. This makes us particularly sad for an applicant who convinced us in the interview and who, due to the Corona developments, we could no longer take on board. At the moment, it's important to secure the existing team, but of course, like everyone else, we hope that the situation will relax again soon.
Stay on course: together into the future
With all the necessary restrictions – we look ahead: After the most important administrative tasks have been completed, we're now dealing with the external standstill with constructiveness and creativity. We develop resource plans and solutions so that we can be there for short-term work and remain available to our customers. In order to make optimal use of the time, innovation teams develop new products and new digital solutions. Because we want to be ready as a partner and to be able to support our customers in times of crisis and new beginnings.
In a first step, we created a catalog of measures for our customers and partners, which is intended to help them organize their thoughts and take action in this difficult situation. It contains many useful tips on which procedures and specific activities are recommended in the current situation and how to use this time to prepare for a restart after the crisis ends.
Insights, prospects & a personal thank you
What I learned during this time: crises are life's chances for change. You don't even need to know what's going to be new – you just have to be ready and confident and try to keep clarity and focus. We only grow outside of the comfort zone, and we were all thrown out of it by the corona virus. I am convinced that the current economic blows of fate give us experiences that make us stronger. And the best thing is community, solidarity and cohesion, but also the courage to decide and act as new values.
The challenges are expected to continue in the coming months, and are likely to become even greater. But our journey continues! Anyone can sail when the weather is fine, and the true team spirit only becomes apparent in stormy weather. Because we cannot control the wind, but we can fix the sails. And we're doing that, the entire team. I would like to thank all of my colleagues for this! And we would also like to thank all of our loyal customers and business partners who are going through these stormy times with us. For now, I wish that we can all stick together and above all stay healthy!
The continuation of the Travel Diary is coming soon.