I dislike repeating myself, but it is impossible to stay away from the global situation affecting all of us these days. It does not matter if we can bear the financial blast or if we keep thinking how are we going to keep our workers and pay our debts the day after our countries open for business again. It is not only financial institutions or employees: it is associations, families, suppliers, clients, an immense group of entangled humans coming out of the hardest global shock of modern times.
Why did the Spanish flu not have the consequences we are dealing with today? Certainly, one was communications, a commodity a small percentage of people did have access to, the other being that resignation which the war created in most of them. Dead people have been everyday reality for 4 years, people grew tough to that reality. A bullet, a grenade or a virus: dying far away or dying at home was not such an unexpected occurrence.
We are immersed in nonstop news, sometimes confusing as there is no coordinated body receiving material from countries and scientists to be distributed homogeneously afterwards. Political conveniences unfortunately prevailed over scientific data in many countries, fact that was confirmed when data was showing big differences in the same country. Information is what people need to hang on the wishful hope of getting good news. The same happened with Chernobyl or Fukushima, but we were sitting comfortably at home and the problem was far away.
My aim with the previous look at history is to help understand more about the increasing impact of this pandemic in people’s lives and in our industry globally. It is very possible that the current state of the crisis and lock downs will last longer than what is expected. Once freedom of movement is achieved, boating comes back and the market starts to pick up again. Going back to business as usual will not happen instantly, but very slowly together with the gaining back freedom to move, gather, and work.
Countries will behave differently depending on their vulnerability, experience and state of their economy. Looking into the developments in China and the Asian countries, three to four months ahead of us, will help us visualize how our future could be. Boating is small in most of Asia, but their behaviour can be useful to understand certain patterns and help us plan with something to grab onto.
Most born sailors will want to go back to boating straight away, the newcomers being more cautious and waiting a bit longer until the whole situation become clearer and safer. Families will prefer to wait a bit more before going back to yacht club or marina life. It will be a slow, careful coming back, with medical fear as a common factor. On some cases we will have reappearances of virus activity which will bring morale down even knowing that it is likely to be a short time occurrence.
We are faced with an expected “back to business” that will be slow, and when factors inherent to each country will show up. We must establish a plan, a strategy, of what to do when that happens. If we start acting without a plan, we will be groping in the dark, making the same mistakes we are seeing in health aid management as the virus spreads.
Type of actions we can take:
- Concentrate first in the people, not in the product. The big motor to impulse any industry is its people’s health, physical and mental. Everybody will be trying their best to be back to an acceptable level of trading, but no people, no business. Encouraging their full participation, demonstrating the appreciation of their value, (listening is already 50% of the solution),making them feel protected at the workplace by implementing a sanitary policy that is clearly seen (UV treatment of circulating air, disinfectant points, providing mask and gloves to those that would feel more comfortable wearing them). This is not implementing government rules, it is a company effort caring about its workforce. Aside of dealing with virus fear, any flexibility, improvement or making workers participate in the working conditions decision should immediately refresh and generate loyalty.
- Create a cleaning plan of all facility places, including warehouses, bathrooms, club houses, outside handrails. Let the cleaning plan be checked and certified by a health authority. Advertise and promote the plan to neighbour facilities, workers and users. We must generate confidence at the source and spread it as loud as possible, as the biggest remaining enemy is fear.
- Programme and create a diffusion campaign about what and how to do when coming back to yachting (power and sail). This is to be distributed among the users. Measures as:
- Restore confidence and present boating as a safe hobby/sport.
- Incentivate to communicate beforehand with the office by telephone or Internet, and learn about avoiding rush hours at bars, restaurants or toilet/shower facilities.
- Create events at the clubs /marinas for both users and community establishing a comfortable maximum attendance allowed (less than government limit). In every single event, management and personnel is to take part, if possible, including members of their families. Services companies and suppliers should be encouraged to join. The presence of management and personnel with relatives is the best show of confidence in being back to a safe environment.
- Contact small and mid-size nautical service companies and self-employed marine workers and create a special program of cooperation and offering of services at the facility. They are hit really hard in the nautical industry. Offer workspace, special menus at the restaurant or place to display their goods. This must be done in periods (say: two months). Simple rules to be developed together between parties, as particular conditions will be very diverse.
- Contact local authorities and organise light training programs about usual subjects onboard: sail repair, electricity, pumps, knots, basic electronics installation, BBQ onboard, diving, painting, cooking, fishing. Many can be run by the service suppliers, getting them in contact with the users. Extend participation (both active and passive) to the community. Poor public relations with the community has been one of the big mistakes of the past. We can start a new era.
- Keep local authorities informed about your initiatives and invite them to join. Show them results as soon as having them available. Politicians will be in high need of anything that works. Establish a symbiosis with them. If they need to hang the medal on their chest, let them do it. Everybody will know anyway who has done the work, and we have to live with politicians, like it or not. Staying active is a must for the success of our relations with them.
These are just few examples of activities that can be implemented with very low costs and our own initiative. External (governmental) assistance or help may take time to materialise in some areas, if it comes at all. If such help comes, it will be welcomed. If it does not, we can keep with our plan and help industry and community get through these tough times.
By Oscar Siches