What is the impact of the COVID-19 in the moving and relocation industry?
It’s been a while since the official closure and quarantine of many businesses, schools and other public places in China on January 24th. A good moment to take a look at how things have changed since then. Robert Chipman, CEO of Asian Tigers Hong Kong spoke on February 24th with Bloomberg television (Asian Tigers Group, 2020) about the impact of the Coronavirus on relocation and moving business. Interesting is that Chipman explained that, as the moving and relocation industry is a seasonal business, this time of the year is normally very slow and quiet. However, “February this year is one of the busiest months we ever had, it’s unheard of and impressive” claims Chipman.
So, the industry showed the exact opposite of what one would expect in this situation and even something completely new, as no one could have foreseen this increase in inquiries coming in a month such as February. But what does this mean for the moving and relocating industry worldwide? Additionally, is the fact that people are relocating (to other countries) permanent, or are they moving back to China once the dust is settled? This article will highlight and explain what the impact of the COVID-19 in the moving and relocation industry at the moment is and, what is still to come for all of us.
The situation at the moment
First and foremost, it is important to point out that the increasing demand of moving inquiries is only because people want to get out as soon as possible. This is already an obstacle as operations have been significantly affected given the fact that many employees are unable to return to work due to either highway, town or public transport being shut down or due to home quarantine enforcement. This means that relocating businesses are forced to work with only a small percentage of their usual operational capacity for at least the coming next 2-3 weeks. Another major challenge is the actual relocation process itself, as many condos and apartment buildings are currently not allowing outside workers and vehicles to enter in order to prevent any further dissemination of the coronavirus. This results in an extremely complex process where people first have to provide detailed residential details so that companies can come into contact with property managers asking if it is even allowed to enter the building (Will, J., 2020) . So, getting out of China at the moment is not as easy as it may seem. What about the individuals that already traveled to all the corners of the world during Chinese New Year? Most of them have not moved back yet and are contacting relocation businesses to pack their goods and ship them overseas without them having to return back to China. Here lies another challenge (Will, J., 2020) for relocators as they require access to the residence and need clear instructions about what needs to be moved and what has to stay.
Impact Of The Virus
There is no doubt the current outbreak is going to challenge businesses all over the world. While February might have been a busy month for relocating and moving businesses, it leaves a bitter aftertaste due to the fact that these are only outbound inquiries. How or when expats are ready to move back to China will be the biggest question. For now, it is recommended, if your company operates in China, to review your strategy (Odyssey Logistics, 2020) and look after possible risks or maybe new opportunities. For businesses that are located in China, make sure that all paperwork (Fox, C., Summer, N., Turnbull, A., & Morgan, I., 2020) is submitted to the government in order to reopen again. Another idea for companies located in China could be an emergency surcharge. In other words, to compensate for all the extra work and risk getting contaminated, relocation and moving businesses could consider levying an ‘emergency surcharge’ to partially recover additional operational costs until things return back to normal. However, for most it’s a watch and waiting game.
For The Future
It can be said that most information about the coronavirus is still based on educated guesses (Newscientist, 2020). Simply because there is not enough evidence about the transmission, incubation time and even the source of the virus yet (Perlman, S., 2020). Also, the way the media cover stories about the virus plays an important role. This can now be considered as a matter of fanning the flames of panic, whereas fear is the main motive for stock markets to go down and to raise the purchase price of raw materials and other supplies. Eventually everything will return to normal once the virus is contained, just like the outbreak with the SARS-CoV. Finally, the most important thing in a close bonded industry like relocation and moving is to stay optimistic and support your (Chinese) partners. Because that will be the foundation for the upcoming months, or maybe even years, rebuilding the future together.