As all ETB Travel News readers know, tourism is a highly competitive and rapidly changing business. One of the most common traps many tourism businesses fall into, is that of becoming tunnel-visioned; believing we know best. Whether you are an airline, wholesaler, travel agent, hotelier, managing an attraction or a destination its easy to become complacent and set in your ways. This can be the first sign that your business or enterprise is heading for a fall.
Most successful tourism businesses are outward looking and keep close tabs on what the competition is up to. However, there are plenty of businesses which watch competitors erode their market share. However, they fail to adapt because the company’s culture is set in its way and there is a reluctance to change.
Excellent external consultants or change agents can play a valuable role in providing an outsider’s expertise and objectivity to analyse what is going wrong with a busines. They can often provide valuable advice on what needs to be done to revitalise the business. I ran such a business for 20 years and even in my current capacity as a tourism academic I am often called on to provide external advice- usually to government tourism ministries. Outsourcing expertise, provided you make the right choices can greatly benefit your business.
A good consultant can be a significant asset to a business which needs some positive external disruption to enhance its marketing, operation, employment of technology, financial managment or service delivery. Conversely, a bad consultant can be a waste of money. So, what makes for a good consultant ?
Julian Good who is the CEO of Good Liasons is a consultant I know quite well. www.goodliaisons.com.au Julian’s success is based on his team’s in-depth knowledge of the tourism businesses they work with. This is coupled by a willingness to mentor the company and its managment and staff going through the change. Many consultants, have a meeting with the CEO, write a document for a client, give it them, send the bill and forget them. If a consultancy firm is really going to help a business change direction and become more competitive they need to be mentors and help guide them through a mutually agreed change process.
A core element of business change involves understanding the management and staff of a company and their interractions. Important as technology is to the success of any tourism business, the quality of staff and the quality of teamwork in providing excellent service is central to business success. Julian Good has employed the DISC (work teams and HR) program in assessing work teams in both small and large businesses.
When choosing an external consultant, have a close look at their track record, particuarly their knowledge and experience of your business and your sector. Some large consultancy firms may be brilliant in assisting financial institutions and hopeless for small high-tech startups. Consultants with extensive knowledge of the tourism industry are always a good place to start. However, as the industry is highly sectoral the methods to rejuvenate an airline may not be applicable to a hotel, a wholesaler or a travel agent. Good consultants take the trouble to obtain an in-depth knowledge of the businesses they are assisting and this usually involves engagement with a wide range of management and staff, not only the CEO.
Outsourcing expertise should be treated as an investment in the future competitivess and quality of your business. The proviso is that you choose the right source of expertise to match the specific needs of your business. So don’t rush into a decision, choose carefully and choose wisely. There are some great consultants in the global travel business. A good clue as to their effectiveness is the extent to which they are transparent about their track record (providing they are discreet about their projects with past clients). I’m sure that you would not like a consultant to reveal your trade secrets (commercially in confidence issues) in the interests of them selling their services.