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Adaptability - Not Conformity - is the Answer

By Victoria S. Martinez

March 8, 2020, the beginning of spring break when I embarked on the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas for a week-long vacation with 60 other students from University of Central Florida.

There were obvious concerns with us travelling on a cruise ship during the spread of the coronavirus. We had heard of cruise ships not being allowed back into their ports or having to quarantine their passengers for two whole weeks, so in the back of our minds there was the constant thought: Will we make it back home safely?

We noticed the cruise staff’s priority for everyone’s health and safety as they constantly cleaned eating areas, handrails, elevators, handles, and anything else that could cause the virus to spread. Later that evening on the first night, one of my friends came across an article published a few hours earlier titled “State Department, CDC advise against cruise travel amid coronavirus outbreak.”

And look at us, here on a cruise ship.

The article specifically mentioned the departure of Harmony of the Seas, the ship we were on. Day after day we received more and more news about what was shutting down and closing back home; new restrictions being made, countries put on complete lockdown, restaurants, theme parks, and hotels closing, and jobs lost - all around the world.

And here I was, in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, drinking a piña colada on the pool deck, sunbathing, and thinking about what I would order for room service for my fifth meal of the day.

Thankfully, there were no concerns with COVID-19 for the remainder of the voyage. Harmony of the Seas was one of the last RCCL ships to leave the port until further notice, and many other cruise lines followed the same procedures. Airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights, hotels are no longer accepting new reservations, restaurants are not allowing customers to eat on their premises, and theme parks that attract millions of tourists a year are closed.

In fact, 72.5 million jobs in the tourism market are predicted to be lost towards by the end of this pandemic. Every sector within the industry has been affected, and leaders in organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have come together to strengthen their partnership to advance their response to this epidemic.

Knowing I would be on one of the last cruises to leave their port and being a student studying hospitality made me wonder what the cruise industry (well, the tourism industry as a whole) would look like in the future. Ultimately, the future of the industry can depend on what changes leaders make now and how they adapt to the constantly changing effects of the pandemic.

Implementing adaptive leadership in this time cannot only help find ways to best achieve “social distancing,” but it helps organizations and individuals thrive during challenging, unprecedented times like these through creativity, continual development, and emotional intelligence.

How can you strive to be adaptive during these times?

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