A New Era of Business in the Post-Pandemic Economy

By Ryan Hanley and Aiden Messett – Staff Writers

Despite the highly apparent misfortunes that the pandemic has brought upon society, it is always beneficial, although difficult, to look on the bright side.  

If there is one thing that history has taught us, it is that adversity often breeds innovation.   

The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Despite its many unpleasantries, this wide-reaching, rapid spreading disease catalyzed a worldwide transformation in just about every industry. 

Even as the manic stage of the pandemic comes to an end, consumer preferences and behaviors that were set forth by global lockdowns are likely to persist, which will permanently alter the landscape of our economy.  

One industry that has adapted to the new consumer is the restaurant industry. According to the Washington Post, restaurant and bar closures saw a 95 % increase over the average annual rate in 2020.  

Restaurant establishments who did survive were quickly pressured to find ways to continue serving customers without breaking COVID-19 protocols.   

While globally recognized names such as Dominos and Taco Bell quickly utilized Amazon Web Services to shift their entire operation online overnight, locally owned restaurants did not share the same luxury.  

Corinne Salko, owner of Bar Pazzo, a local Italian restaurant in downtown Scranton, said that many of the alternatives to traditional dining services, such as delivery and online ordering, were not small business friendly. 

To add to frustrations, she observed that the supply of loyal staff has diminished a very common issue amongst businesses who have been starved for employees since the early days of the pandemic.    

In response, Bar Pazzo, like many restaurants, has cut down their hours of operation. Despite this reduction, Bar Pazzo reports that customer volume has quickly regained COVID-19 losses.   

Evidently, restaurants of all sizes have been forced to adapt to the pandemic, either through expanded online ordering options or reduced hours of operation.   

The restaurant industry was not the only one to witness the effects of the pandemic. The travel industry was pummeled as fear of the deadly disease rose. The International Air Transport Association reported that worldwide air traffic passenger demand dropped 66% after the start of COVID-19; subsequently, major airline companies saw significant losses in revenue.   

Hospitality companies witnessed a major shift away from hotels towards Airbnb and other private home rentals, as families attempted to vacation while remaining in isolation.    

Moreover, with the transition from in-person business trips to virtual communications, both travel and hospitality industries experienced an additional blow in their revenue streams.    

As a result, firms in both fields have been forced to adjust their services to meet new consumer preferences. Between contactless check-ins, food delivery, and digital room keys, hotel brands such as Marriott International and Hilton have quickly found ways to adapt to COVID-19 safety protocols. 

 Even as pandemic fears unwind, hotels have discovered that these contactless services are more efficient and more cost effective than previous methods.   

Similarly, airlines have quickly adjusted their business models to survive the pandemic induced reduction in travel demand. It is widely believed that business travel will never recover from the pandemic, and airlines have responded accordingly by focusing their efforts on leisure travel.  

For instance, airlines have already begun altering the layout of their cabins and adjusting their flight routes to better accommodate leisure travelers rather than business travelers.  

Perhaps the most significant business model adaptations have come from the education and healthcare industries.  

Every student at the University of Scranton has seen first-hand how their education was impacted by virtual classes and online testing. It took just two weeks for our entire education system to shift from in-person classrooms to an online platform, where many of us were hardly forced to leave bed.  

This shift was no different for students in elementary, middle, and high schools. Unfortunately, as a result, retention rates fell significantly as educator’s struggled to present material to students virtually. McKinsey & Company estimates that students are, on average, five months behind in mathematics, and four months behind in reading and language skills.   

Dr. Edward Scahill, a University of Scranton Economics Professor for over 30 years would like to move forward and leave remote education behind.  

Scahill said that he hopes, “wide-spread remote education is a thing of the past.”  

The healthcare industry’s response to the pandemic has vividly highlighted the industry’s resilience and ability to bring innovations to market quickly. An obvious example can be found in the haste with which groundbreaking vaccine technologies were developed, or even how hospitals quickly found ways to accommodate overflowing patient levels.   

Perhaps a more impressive and longer lasting adaptation is the introduction of telehealth. Shifts in the healthcare industry were prompted by the increased panic regarding the treatment of high-risk patients.  

This resulted in the growing use of telehealth appointments, where doctors could see patients from their homes.   

According to the CDC, telehealth visits increased by 154% during the last week of March 2020, as compared to the same period in 2019. Analysts suggest this rapid increase was undoubtedly connected to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth care has quickly gone from being “nice to have” to a “must have” for doctors who wish to increase their capacity to treat patients without investing heavily in office space.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken millions of lives, agitated mental health issues, and decimated global economic health.  

Although no one can deny the pandemic was extremely tumultuous and difficult, it is hard to deny that it has had positive effects like making people and businesses alike stronger and more resilient.  

Even one of the most apocalyptic periods in modern history is not enough to discourage a determined business owner.