The COVID-19 pandemic has, with a sudden shock, altered the landscape of our global business community. Its economic reverberations have forced many business owners to make very tough decisions. The economic effects have spread faster than the coronavirus and no one knows to any certainty how this all ends. Belize, always seemingly tucked away from the cares of the wider world, is no different. However, the travel industry faces the most turbulence with stay-at-home orders in place, and Belize airlines face the same turbulence.
This includes the downsizing of teams, alteration to work hours, and even the surrender of coveted office space. The correct and proportionate response to this evolving reality is a great dilemma for so many business managers, having long participated in the growth and evolution of their workforce. Through the years employers have found themselves making personal loans, providing educational scholarships, and paying medical bills for employees who have become more like family than staff. And in a wider sense, many businesses have served as first responders to the community in times of crisis. Helping families cope through periods of disaster, such as fires, hurricanes, and during death and grief, are familiar hallmarks. Many a business has been a bedrock to the community.
We’ve all read the news lately and know that long-time public service businesses are falling into understandably tough times. One such admired airline company is Tropic Air Belize, an institution to the people of San Pedro. An airline built by epic men and women, stone by stone, and a model for industry and resilience in Belize. The airline company is faced with hard decisions that chafe against the grain of its 41-year history. A necessary step to weather the storm. Blue skies may be ahead, but the current economic burdens are much akin to weathering a storm. Right now, this experience is much akin to flying through a storm as the airline industry faces unprecedented turbulence. Nonetheless, we know that blue skies are ahead. We can see it on our radar, but we still must weather the winds.
This is what our airline and tourism community is giving their full measure to achieve, preserving industry to guarantee a future of opportunity and the ability to work for its community.
Pivoting The Travel Industry
Knowing when, and how, to pivot a business to meet these dramatic changes in economic fortunes is a great debate among today’s business leaders. Who, not to mention, is under strain and scrutiny for being good corporate citizens. We do understand that this is survival. Not survival of owners and investments alone, but also of our ideals. Belize and the Caribbean are not alone.
Avianca, struggling even before the global health crisis, was one of the world’s first airlines to report “mayday” due to the financial impact of COVID-19. With the majority of its flights grounded since mid-March, Avianca now says its revenues are down 80%. “Avianca is facing the most challenging crisis in our 100-year history as we navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CEO Anko van der Werff (via The Bogota Post). However, this doesn’t mean this is the end for Avianca. Moving forward, Avianca is opening the way for a court-supervised reorganization. The business can still continue to operate. And when restrictions ease, flights will be able to take off and the journey to recovery will begin.
Since we don’t know the duration of the health pandemic fight, businesses must be sure to ration their resources to sustain them through to the other side. With global enplanements on the rise and global carriers reopening airport hubs and routes, hope is very much alive for the airline industry and travel in general.