What constitutes a safe destination? How important is safety and security when planning international travel? Some US companies have banned corporate travel to Thailand because of political unrest; or Bali because of the bombings in 2002.
Iraq is an obvious danger zone, but some are now going further than merely excluding war zones when it comes to assessing safety and security of their delegates.
According to Bert Van Walbeek, CEO, The Winning Edge, addressing the topic of Risk and Crisis Management in MICE Industries at the first GIBTM in Abu Dhabi recently, a well known five-star hotel in Bangkok recently lost a sizeable piece of MICE business because the General Manager could not adequately answer the safety questions posed by the client CEO. The company was happy to pay higher rates to another hotel that did have disaster preparedness plans in place, and we are not talking about fire escape plans, than risk the lives of their top executives. The lesson here is that it is not only cost these companies are paying attention to, but security.
Given the topical Biman Bangladesh Airlines accident at Dubai International Airport as GIBTM opened, where fortunately few were injured, no lives lost, but thousands inconvenienced through closure of the airport for up to eight hours, the illustration given by Van Walbeek of Thai International Airways’ readiness for disaster management was a revelation. The airline has learned from previous incidents, its own, and those of others, and appointed a vice-president in charge of Crisis Management, introduced Rapid Response Guidelines, has established clearly communicated security procedures, family support and assistance teams, and a Fast Member Pocket Guide for Emergency Response issued to a wide ranging team of trained members of staff ready at any time for any emergency. Updates and reassessments are ongoing, and directed from the highest level.
Posing simple questions relating to everyday life – do you know your blood group type in case of an emergency? Where do you keep your computer back up files (if you even have one)? – had the audience wondering. Yet how many companies have clear and well-communicated crisis management planning or business recovery plans?
International hotel chains like Accor and Moevenpick have well-prepared plans, linked to annual quality assurance checks and management bonus schemes – ensuring regular review and update, but what about independent hotels or smaller chains?
The question should not be ‘how safe’ but ‘how well prepared for crisis’ is your chosen destination, hotel or company? Even the best laid plans can go astray; crisis and disasters do happen – albeit rarely. A company or destination will, however, be judged on how well a crisis is handled, so isn’t it time you reviewed your Crisis Management planning?
Fortunately, help is at hand; detailed information and pertinent questions to assist in your planning can be found on www.pata.org (News – Crisis Centre); or www.leslp.gov.uk (London Emergency Services Liaison Panel) to see how a destination can be prepared for all eventualities. We all hope to avoid disaster but burying our heads in the sand will not help us should disaster actually strike.
Like Winston Churchill said, “The optimist sees opportunity in every danger. The pessimist sees danger in every opportunity.”
So how well prepared are you?
by Caroline Ward
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.