See World Tourism Organization: Table: International Tourist Arrivals 1950-2005
In the span of this same generation, the world has witnessed traditional media and telecommunications evolve into a global medium where people feed, relay and consume news nearly instantaneously. Whereas traditional media reported, summarized and editorialized to an unknowing audience, the “news” element is already in the public knowledge thanks to social media and instant telecommunications today. Details and in-depth reporting is often too late to influence the already formed opinions drawn from 140 character tweets and smartphone pictures posted on Instagram during the course of a crisis.
See an interesting study by the Pew Research Center: What Facebook and Twitter Mean for News
The greatest damage to a destination occurs immediately… as the worldwide audience is watching it unfold live. While the effects may be felt days or weeks later, the damage has already been done. Crisis management serves as a crucial emergency centre during these times, but a plan must be in place first in order to be effective when and if needed. In this way, crisis management acts similar to an insurance policy for events that hopefully will never take place. Large companies including most airlines have dedicated crisis management teams; however, it is neither practical nor cost-effective for smaller organisations to maintain staff specifically for the task.
Fortunately, the most important element of any crisis management strategy is… communication, which a stakeholder of any size can leverage. While instant communications like tweets and Instagram pictures so quickly shape public opinion as crises develop, the same avenues of communication are also the most effective means for tourism stakeholders to enter the conversation and manage the effects as soon as possible.
In practical terms… all stakeholders must have the following: a detailed crisis contingency plan, a resource guide for employees, and the ability to delegate decision-making and communications to those best suited to respond during a crisis event.
Odds are slim that the person leading a crisis management effort will be easily accessible at the most critical of times, therefore the chosen resource guide book for employees should be both effective and adaptive in ensuring that best practices prevail. The guide should offer concise and adaptable instructions so that no employee is caught desperately searching a lengthy index to find a simple answer. As American English is the most widely understood language by the global audience, consider using it as the language of choice.
The next step is to select, build and train a crisis team. Keep in mind that most experienced and senior staff may not be on site, or they may remain unreachable far into an unfolding crisis. Therefore, the best candidates for a local team should be those already adept at utilizing social media. Regardless of their work experience or placement, they should be motivated team players who can be trusted with important responsibilities. Of course, they should be able to communicate in basic English; additional they will require some training in crisis management to ensure that order, not mayhem, prevails.
Instead of an arduously written, lengthy, post-event press release… that is often viewed skeptically, build a crisis response plan which serves as a foundation to mitigate negative effects and build credibility in this age of powerful and immediately information. Digestible and accurate communications from coordinated sources distributed throughout the course of a crisis are the key to successfully mitigating their consequences.
Vorawan & Associates is a consultancy particularly well learned on the subject of political crisis management for the tourism industry. Do not hesitate to contact us with your questions or inquiries.