The Covid crisis: studying the future

28 May, 2020
  • 2 min read
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Everyone in the hospitality profession, and also in the research world, is concerned with one single question: how will this crisis evolve? And even though there is no science that enables us to predict the future, there are scientific methods that allow us to systematically analyse trends and formulate “if this, then that” hypotheses about the future.

Strategic Foresight is a method to study how we envision the future: what do we know, what do we assume, what do we expect from the future based on those ideas; and, more importantly, what happens if something unexpected occurs? The objective is not to make accurate predictions about the future, but to prepare ourselves strategically for not only the expected (or so-called baseline) future, but also for the surprises that the future always holds. Graphically, this is represented in the following model from a paper by two Future Foresight researchers from the University of Houston, where this method is taught:

Figure 1The "cone of plausibility". Source: Hines & Bishop (2013), Framework foresight: Exploring futures the Houston way. Futures 51.

What can we say, with this method, about the current Covid-19 crisis? In the attached study, Jeroen Oskam has analysed the assumptions, plans, and the current policies deployed in the crisis. One of the things the study shows is that, although we had been preparing for a pandemic crisis, the assumptions in those preparations were totally different from what actually has happened, and that therefore most plans were immediately tossed aside.
Will we have a V-shaped (quick recovery), a U-shaped (slow recovery) or maybe even an L-shaped recovery (permanent economic slowdown) after the crisis? Of course we cannot tell yet, but when we analyse the different factors in play, the conclusions are that the driver for a recovery are weak, and that therefore a pessimistic scenario seems more likely. As for the duration of the crisis, even if we are not sure that there will be subsequent waves, this is a serious scenario we have to incorporate into our recovery plans. The tourist industry will certainly be hard hit, but the consequences will most probably be devastating for long-haul destinations that cannot fall back on domestic tourism. Finally, small independent businesses are more vulnerable to the effects of a prolonged crisis, which means that with recovery we will probably see a consolidation in the hospitality industry, with winners and losers.

The Research Centre of Hotelschool The Hague is currently conducting multiple studies into the effects of the crisis on the industry. Strategic Foresight is one of the subjects that will be included in the new master the school is currently planning.

Click here to read the full paper.

About the author

Jeroen Oskam

From March 2015, Jeroen Oskam is appointed as the Director of the Research Centre. In this role, he is responsible for the further advancement of research at Hotelschool The Hague. Hotelschool The Hague’s ambition is to bridge the gap between what is being researched in the academic world and how hotel companies, professionals and students can benefit from these insights. In addition, the Research Centre will concentrate on a small number of lines of research, key strategic issues within the hospitality sector for the next five years. Hotelschool The Hague will conduct research on these lines on an international level.

Jeroen has many years of experience in hotel management as well as research. He worked as Director of MBA Hotel and Tourism Management at Hotelschool Maastricht and he continued his way to Spain, where he established Zaragoza Hotel Management School. In recent years Jeroen had set up the European Tourism Futures Institute for Stenden University. He was part of the Management Team of CELTH (Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism and hosptality), a collaboration between NHTV Breda, Hogeschool Zeeland and Stenden. He is also a lecturer at the EADA Business School in Barcelona.

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