Virtual Round Table - Tourism Industry in Mexico
On 15 April 2020 The Embassy of The Netherlands and Holland House Mexico organized a virtual round table around the topic: the COVID-19 crisis and the Mexican tourism industry. The session was specifically organized for Dutch entrepreneurs active in the sector. Tourism is one of the most impacted industries, as all touristic activities have been postponed Corona crisis.
The virtual meeting discussed the topic in three separate stages. Firstly, the current situation in the Mexican tourism industry was outlined. Secondly, planning & strategy and best practices we discussed and thirdly, the ways to restart your businesses were explored.
Carin Verbree, Manager of Holland House Mexico, was the moderator during the meeting and Judith Maas, Deputy Head Economic Affairs at the Embassy of The Netherlands was responsible for the introductory and concluding words.
Several Dutch entrepreneurs active in the Mexican tourism sector joined the round table. The panelists during this meeting were:
- Daniëlle van der Kwartel, Director Moneyback, Cancun
- Saskia Fiselier, Director Hotel Con Corazon, Oaxaca
- Pieter Kabel, Director Kamino Tours, Mexico City
Stage 1: The current situation
The Mexican tourism sector is going through rough economic times. 80% of the hotels are closed and the industry is expected to lose US$6 million this year. It is not the first time that entrepreneurs in Mexico are in a crisis. Several natural disasters and epidemics have passed in recent history. Therefore, it is estimated that the average economic recovery period after a pandemic is 19,4 months. Thus, entrepreneurs should be prepared to deal with the situation and take steps immediately. But which steps should be taken to prevent becoming the biggest potential loser, as the figure below suggests?
The 5-step plan to overcome the covid-19 crisis
- External data. Stay up to date with the daily news but be aware of fake news.
- Internal data. Communicate with customers, personnel, suppliers etc.
- Create a plan of action.
- Implement this plan of action.
- Measure, document, improve and repeat.
This 5-step plan provides a general guide for entrepreneurs. Being up to date with the current situation in your industry, country and the world is important. Also, communication within the entrepreneur’s close network is essential. The optimal situation would be that after the COVID-19 crisis all customers, personnel and suppliers will quickly return. Although this might not be reality, close and frequent communication will keep these business relationships healthy.
After informing and communicating, the entrepreneur should create a strategic plan. An important part in this plan of action should focus on lowering fixed costs. According to Mrs. Van der Kwartel, this is the right time to (re-)evaluate fixed costs and to take measures to lower them. She advises to implement changes that can be maintained, even after the crisis.
Stage 3: Back to business
There will be a time when hotels and restaurants are filled with tourists again. The panelists speculated about several techniques to get a business up and running again. They came to the following conclusion: prioritize loyal customers over economic tourists. It might seem a strategic move to offer restaurant menus and hotel rooms at a low price to attract many customers right after the crisis. However, the entrepreneurs at the round table mentioned that this is only a temporary solution. The customers that are the most important are the ones you already know and that already know your company. Therefore companies, especially in the tourism sector, should be working on customer insights and marketing communication. Mrs. Van der Kwartel suggested tools such as newsletters and surveys to keep in touch with your loyal customers and to gain information about their thoughts and wishes.
Besides communication, it is also the right time to work on the design of your restaurant or hotel. As Prime Minister of The Netherlands Mr. Rutte stated during his conference on 15 April: “the counter will not open immediately”. This means that the process of going back to business will be step-by-step. Hence, restaurants and hotels might be forced to make changes in order to receive customers in a safe way. The panelists’ advice: prepare yourself now! There is a variety of courses available specifically designed for entrepreneurs aiming to adapt a COVID-free way of doing business. Mr. Houben, Chef at PETER’s Restaurant in Cancun, recommended the following course for restaurant owners in Mexico.
The final advice for all entrepreneurs in Mexico: always have an emergency budget. Saving a certain amount of money is a must when doing business in unpredictable times and in a constantly moving society.
Team HHM would like to thank everyone for actively participating in this virtual round table about the tourism industry in Mexico. Due to the success of this session and particularly on request from the participants, we will be organizing a follow-up meeting in the coming weeks. A special thank you to The Embassy of The Netherlands in Mexico, the Consul in Cancun, and the panelists.