Wananga landing Wananga landing

Building business capacity to ensure a sustainable future in tourism

30 June 2021

In an uncertain world, finding out what makes a business resilient will help owners and managers build a sustainable future.


University of Canterbury marketing and tourism expert, Professor Girish Prayag is studying small to medium tourism and hospitality enterprises in Christchurch and wider New Zealand to understand what contributes to their resilience.

“When we think of resilience, organisations think in terms of their response when something goes wrong. Yet, resilience isn’t only about bouncing back when there are unexpected changes,” he says.

“Businesses are changing all the time due to what’s happening in their environment, but they don’t usually think about how they can leverage what they’ve learnt from adapting to small changes and how to use those learnings to cope with big changes.

“Several things have to be in place before a big event so that businesses have the best opportunity to bounce back. You can’t focus only on day-to-day processes and operations to give businesses the best opportunity to respond and recover and thus survive. It’s important along the way to spend time reflecting on why changes were made and why some worked, and others did not.”

Professor Prayag says there are several key pillars businesses can use to build resilience. These include access to finances, adapting product offerings, relationships within supply chains, marketing, networks and community relationships, employee engagement and diversification. He says these are crucial to being resilient when there are rapid and sudden changes.

“Our research has shown that businesses that had done this pre-work had a more positive outlook and were able to adapt more quickly during COVID-19. For some businesses, investments into and development of these capabilities were done following the Canterbury earthquakes and they were able to quickly include the health and safety aspects to overcome challenges.”

Professor Prayag has been working with colleagues in New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka. He says it is difficult to draw international similarities on business resilience because of past experiences of sudden changes in Canterbury, and the different restriction levels and frequency of lockdowns in different parts of the world.

“I guess we are getting to the point where we can draw similarities with the earthquakes – we had 14 months of aftershocks – we are coming up on 14 months of closed borders and uncertainty in response to COVID-19. The government has given financial support to tourism businesses for COVID-19 and the question is: will those businesses be able to continue when that support runs out?”

Where nature and knowledge collide, University of Canterbury researchers are building Sustainable Futures. Throughout July, we are sharing some of the innovative research University of Canterbury academics are creating to grow society’s understanding of the natural world and shape a sustainable future for generations to come. He Kaitiaki tatou katoa – We will enhance and nurture our resources.

See University of Canterbury research building towards a Sustainable Future.

For information and interviews contact:
Professor Girish Prayag, University of Canterbury Business School,, Phone: +64 3 369 4082

Media contact
  • Email
  • Phone: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
What to read next
Privacy Preferences

By clicking "Accept All Cookies", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.