The Phoenix Bird ​​– a concept for an industry in collective depression

In the Swedish hospitality industry, people talk about “Black Friday”, Friday, March 13, 2020. That was when the cancellations began to roll in, after Sweden announced a ban on March 11 for gatherings of more than 500 people. The situation became progressively worse as regulations for social distancing tightened. An entire industry, which, in the face of crisis, would normally roll up its sleeves and get to work, soon found itself in a collective depression. Madeleine Brehmer, CEO of Sabis AB, shared her perspective on the situation in a LinkedIn post on March 25:

Sabis has been around since 1874, running restaurants since 1949, and conferences and services since the early 1970s. The company has gone through many humanitarian and economic crises; two world wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish flu, Black Monday, the dot-com bubble, and the latest financial crisis. One of the most serious crises was when Sabis invested in the steam engine at the end of the 19th century, when the new technology was untested and major problems were encountered that caused the company to stumble. But never in our 146-year history have we encountered as great a challenge as now.

For Kairos Future, which usually helps companies to take risks into account and see opportunities several years into the future, our model has changed. The “uncertain future” shifted from around ten or twenty years in the future, to ten or twenty weeks ahead of today. And we had to make this change in a hurry! For an industry with small margins, we knew that time was of the essence. Since it was impossible to answer the question everyone was asking – WHEN will things get back to normal? – we pulled out the toolbox we normally use to plan for uncertainty by 2030.

By formulating scenarios that reflected different possible timelines for when social distance restrictions will be lifted, we were able to help the industry experiment with the outcome of different strategies. In the first scenario, we examined a situation where restrictions were lifted for the summer season, in the second, the "new normal" beginning only before the winter season of 2020/21. And in a third, worst-case scenario, what happens if travel starts much later, when a vaccine is available to a sufficiently large percentage of the population in Sweden and to important markets for the Swedish tourism industry. Who can, wants, and gets to travel in these different scenarios? What is left of the industry? What values ​​prevail? What messages hit home? What products and concepts will land with consumers? What prerequisites must be met for the industry to succeed? What business models will work?

To address these questions, we added an international inspiration package to our collaborative communication platform, Co:tunity, which is constantly updated with concrete examples of companies and organizations that have managed to find ways out of the crisis, new business models, new services, products, collaborations, and more.

From Kiruna in the north to Trelleborg in the south, hundreds of companies and tourism organizations are working on Kairos Future’s Phoenix Bird ​​concept. We felt Phoenix Bird, or Fågel Fenix in Swedish, was a fitting name for a venture aimed at allowing something to emerge from the ashes of bankruptcies, reorganizations, and layoffs. Right now, businesses are faced with a dilemma: they do not know if they should prepare to throw in the towel – or get ready for a record season. Everything depends on how the upcoming travel recommendations take effect. An extremely stressful situation!

But working systematically and collaboratively through different alternatives can also build energy and confidence in the future:

"Thanks for a very good presentation, you are so good at making things concrete, interesting, and relevant!"
CEO of an experience company, participant in Phoenix Bird

"Now I know what opportunities to grab, and what is most important going forward!"
Head of a tourism organization, participant in Phoenix Bird

"It was simply awesome!"
Hotel Director, participant in Phoenix Bird

"Only the phoenix rises and does not descend. And everything changes. And nothing is truly lost”    
Neil Gaiman


By Johanna Danielsson