Both in our running of the bank in the Pacific, and from seeing how our customers have responded to COVID-19, we’ve seen how important it is to ensure staff understand your purpose, and feel like part of a team.
People want to feel like they are part of something, are valued and can contribute to decision-making - especially in a scenario where they lose a bit of control, like a pandemic.
It is important to acknowledge, accept, and embrace the uncertainty that naturally comes with change.
What has been really encouraging throughout the pandemic is the overall feeling of community in the Cooks - which was already strong - being enhanced even further. There is a strong feeling of understanding and connection with each other, because most people now realise that everyone has been affected in some way.
In early 2019, the outgoing New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Peter Marshall, warned that economies centred heavily around one sector, like tourism in the Cooks, urgently need to diversify, or risk an “Achilles heel” moment when a significant disaster strikes, severely compromising the country’s ability to earn.
That moment came, just a year later - and Mr Marshall was right. If the Cook Islands had a more diversified economy, the impacts of the pandemic would not have been nearly as severe.
The Cook Islands re-opened to tourists in mid-January, but resort occupancy remains on the low side, with most seeing about 20-40% of their accommodation filled.
Bookings for April and May are looking a little better, but the recent confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country are leaving many businesses wondering what the future will hold.
But as they welcome visitors back, freed from the confinement of lockdowns and boredom of home isolation, tourism businesses have the opportunity to reinvent themselves.
Whether in New Zealand or the Cooks, business owners and directors across all industries, from tourist operators to fashion designers like Manini Wear, would be wise to take steps ahead of time to ensure the foundations of their business are strong - and keep their heads held high enough to react quickly to the inevitability of change.
This article first appeared in the New Zealand Herald's Dynamic Business publication.