Travel companies will have to rethink their crisis management strategies and should follow a set of common industry standards. That is the advice of Jill Sinclair, chief executive of Global Health Assured, as reported in Travel Weekly recently. Because of the pandemic, “crisis management has to be rethought,” she argues.
She revealed that the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council is looking at crisis management protocols for the industry. “What we are trying to do is collaborate. We should have a new standard,” she told Travel Weekly.
According to Miss Sinclair, larger companies with more resources have been better equipped to deal with the various crises and complex issues that the pandemic has inflicted on the travel and tourist industry. Smaller companies have found the situation more challenging.
What we do at Communicate
At Communicate Media training, we work with a wide range of hotels, from the budget chains to luxury names to help them test their crisis communications, so we were particularly interested in her comments.
We recently carried out a crisis management training program with a mid-sized chain of high-end hotels. They wanted to ensure that their general managers, country managers, and head office staff were well prepared to deal with a crisis, such as a fire, food poisoning, data breach, Me Too allegation, or any other issue.
Indeed, this lack of industry-wide protocols and consistency was something that the management of this chain was concerned about. However, they weren’t going to wait for the rest of the industry to implement change – they realised that they had to act promptly. They had also understood that they could be handling a crisis that could severely damage the business but, on the other hand, bring a clear competitive advantage.
We worked with them and their PR company, as we always do, to develop a range of crisis scenarios that would be relevant to the various people attending the course. We gave the participants, whose crisis management experience varied considerably, some critical tools for dealing with a problematic issue. “How would you know that something is going wrong in one of your hotels?” we asked them. This is because “information in” is vital during a crisis. Essentially, before you handle a crisis, you need to know that there is one!
We then looked at how they can issue a statement and talk to the media in a way that will reassure clients and potential clients that they are on top of the situation and, most importantly, that they care about their guests. The surprising fact is that if you handle a crisis or difficult situation well, you can improve your brand image as a result. “It’s a bit like when we solve a problem or handle a complaint about a guest,” one of the participants on another crisis media training course told us. “They’re so grateful.”
Because all our media trainers are working journalists, they put the participants through their paces in a very realistic way and ask questions precisely the way they would in their day jobs reporting on a genuine crisis.
“I’m exhausted, but I’m so glad I went through that,” said one hotel duty manager; another told us, “I really hope nothing like this ever happens to us, but Covid has shown that we need to expect the unexpected and I certainly feel better equipped now to deal with any crisis or difficult situations.”
Nobody wants a crisis, whichever sector they work in – and we support organisations ranging from law firms to financial institutions and retailers to architects and developers to help develop and test their media and crisis communications strategies – but trying your procedures and practising your crisis messages is always extremely useful. Once you have them clear in your mind, you can see how they might fit in with any new protocols the industry introduces.
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