May 26, 2020

Our Response to the Impact of COVID-19, as Explained by Johannes Reck

Johannes Reck
CEO and Co-Founder

Johannes Reck, CEO, was a virtual guest on Bits & Pretzels Virtual Founders Forum, a tech conference based in Munich. Amid global lockdowns and travel restrictions, he defied expectations to save jobs and charted a course for the company through a global pandemic and the following years. This approach is known as the wave strategy, where the company moves forward, together.

“The most existential crisis in the entire tourism industry”

Johannes begins by explaining how we went from millions of customers to almost zero in a matter of three weeks. Advisors and board members had advised him to “cut deep and cut fast,” to make the organization as slim as possible to eliminate fixed costs.

Johannes decided against it, stating that the European ecosystem is less of a “hire and fire” type of a cyclical economy. We’re focusing on the long game, he explains, “We’ve spent years building an outstanding team. I didn’t see a reason why a virus should change my opinion about our team."

With over a decade of leading GetYourGuide under his belt, Johannes is preparing for a scenario where the aftermath of the pandemic could last two to three years into the future. Confident that the trends towards mobile and last-minute tour bookings will continue to be on the up, he decided to invest this time into continuing to improve our product.

You might also be interested in: COVID-19 Q&A with Tao Tao: There's no operational playbook, do what's right


Zero business, zero layoffs: How the wave strategy works

Johannes presented the problem to the team and asked, “This is the savings amount that we need, how can we be creative?” During the problem-solving sessions, there were three guiding principles that had to be followed:

  1. Staying customer-centric, we will not deprive our customers of their refunds.
  2. Upholding the current strategy
  3. Preserving as much employment as possible

Employees with projects put on hold due to travel restrictions were given the option of accepting the German short-term work scheme.  This is where the German government pays 60 percent of an employee’s salary reduction or 67 percent for parents and guardians. For those who were still working on prioritized projects, we offered them the option to trade a portion of their salary for shares.

After sharing the news with the staff of over 600 staff members, Johannes and the leadership team received an overwhelmingly positive response. By employing a mix of cost-cutting strategies, the company was able to meet the savings target.


What he learned from this experience

“What I observed is, as soon as you give people transparency about what you’re doing and what your goals are, they do miraculous things,” says Johannes. Today, everyone on the team is more aligned, continuing to work for the customer, and being more productive than ever.

For more general information, please read COVID-19 updates from the People department.

For updates on our open positions, check out our Career page.

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