As businesses become more acclimatised to the new normal, and with lockdowns easing in some countries and work starting on exit strategies in others, thoughts are beginning to turn to the future, and what kind of business climate we will eventually re-emerge into.
It’s certainly tempting to throw a blanket over everything and say things will never be the same again. And we’ve certainly seen a plethora of think pieces over the past few weeks – even years – proclaiming the end of globalisation. But the reality is likely to be slightly more nuanced than that.
Globalisation can mean many different things to people, so it might be useful to define exactly what we’re talking about here. Globalisation is the movement of goods, services, people and ideas between countries, backed by policies intended to make these exchanges easier.
What changes will the virus bring to international trade?
In the aftermath of COVID-19 – at least in the short- and medium-term – we’re likely to see businesses shorten and simplify their supply chains. The risk of dealing with suppliers on the other side of the world has been brought into sharp focus over recent weeks, and while it may cost more to have your goods or supplies made closer to home, it will also mean less chance of disruption. This may also be accelerated by protectionist measures being brought in at a national level in some countries.
How has coronavirus already impacted business?
In the services sector, we’ve already seen the tourism industry, along with airlines, take possibly the largest hit of all. This has had a huge impact on hospitality businesses. It’s not easy to predict how long this will continue after the virus subsides, but it’s reasonable to assume that in the short- to medium-term, tourism is unlikely to recover to pre-virus levels. And there are genuine fears that it may never return fully, as many are predicting that people will re-evaluate their personal priorities, as well as pay closer attention to the environmental impact of tourism.
But wait – there’s good news too!
When it comes to goods, services and people, the predicted recession of globalisation may well be correct. But there is one component in our definition of globalisation that we haven’t yet discussed: the movement of ideas.
Ideas are easy to share, don’t require any logistics, and are comparatively inexpensive to work with. And because of that, the globalisation of ideas will prevail – even during a pandemic. In fact, the movement of ideas has continued unaffected since the start of even the strictest lockdown measures, and has brought about a shared knowledge that’s proved more useful than ever in a climate of social disconnection.
It’s businesses that thrive on ideas that will thrive during uncertain times, too. Ideas are, after all, the starting point for everything, so it stands to reason that the business of ideas is one that will weather every storm. Marketing and advertising are industries built on ideas – and that in turn, build ideas that benefit others. These are sectors that are not only key to moving and sharing ideas on a global scale, but are also key to helping businesses that have been hit by the pandemic recover – quickly and strongly.