Tourism is a peace time industry. It survives and thrives, amongst others on a very abstract thing – i.e, on the image of the tourist destinations. As a result, any disturbance in any sector – political, economical, social and environmental, or any of the service sectors – transport, accommodation other tourist services and infrastructure, creates a crisis for tourism. Hence, events/disasters tend to have an adverse effect on the smooth flow of tourists sometimes resulting in large scale cancellations of groups by handling agents which calls for crisis management. These events could include natural disasters, man made disturbances or other events effecting normal life.
· Floods, Tornadoes and cyclones (desert.coastal areas), Landslides
· Accidents ( Rail, Air)
· Disturbances – political, industrial, commercial – effecting law order
· Strikes Air/Rail
· Bomb blasts
· Military aggression
· Terrorist’s activity
· Out break of diseases like plague, malaria, dengue etc.
Characteristics of crisis – Fear is the key
· The dictionary defines crisis as a “decisive or critical moment”. However, the world crisis used in the modern sense has the following characteristics.
· Crisis triggers fear, and fear is the biggest de-motivating factor in tourism.
· It is often not the reality but perception which drives the behaveiour of a tourist. Perception in the mind is much more real for the person concerned than the reality of danger which may be different from the perception.
· Crisis creates panic, often arising out of rumours and speculations.
· A crisis is usually unpredictable.
News Reports are the source
People in general form their belief about he safety or lack of safety or a particular destination on the basis of news reports. Thus news reports play an important part in influencing the opinion and belief of people about the safety in visiting a specific destination at a particular time.
Characteristics of tourism crisis - In view of peculiar characteristics of tourism to depend upon multi sectoral activities, the tourism industry has many a time handle, crisis created by other sectors or factors beyond their control.
For example, terrorists attack in a city, which is primarily the problem of the law enforcement authorities, may drive away tourists from this city creating a crisis for the tourism industry. Similarly, a natural disaster in some part of the country may get such wide converge in the international media that potential tourists may cancel their tours to the whole country because of lack of information about the precise fallout of the disaster.
Today, we live in the midst of various hazards and it is necessary for the tourism industry to assume that anything can happen at any time. It is therefore not idealistic but realistic to have a crisis management plan for the tourism sector, safety of tourists and their arrivals to India. In the context of the Indian tourism sector, responsible officers should be the part of the crisis management team. Which may include:-
Secretary: As leader: To be chief spokesman for Indian tourism. To coordinate with the high level policy makers & trade.
Additional Secretary will make to liaise with other concerned Ministries and departments. However, constants liaison with XP. Davison of Ministry of External affairs, and information and broad casting and international organization like WTO, PATA etc. even during the non-crisis period.
Senior Officer : special officer deputed to liaise with media and tourist officers in India and overuses and to advise about behavior if various markets. A lot of statistical figures are also required for preparing information reports. Where market Research Division can help. There should be a control room, media information, recording photographs and video tapes so that Department of Tourism can present its side of the story. Documentation of all communications and clippings.
NB: (This is a suggestion only) There could be many other alternatives at the crisis time there some Do’s /Don’ts
On hearing about the disaster each office in India & overseas to contact the HQs, and the Embassy of India for first hand knowledge and cover as much facts as possible from these two channels. To control rumours.
- Cultivate three- four tour operators and three – four journalists who are experts in the market. Their views will be important in making a communication strategy at the time of crisis.
- Make a small Crisis Management Team locally consisting of, say, Sales Manager of Air India or local national airline marketing manger, and friends from travel trade and media.
- Monitor the media: keep clippings of various crises and their solutions reported in the Media.
- Suggest your strategy to control room. About the media relations.
- Implement the strategy and send regular feedback to HQs.
- Synergies with local mission, other Indian organizations and opinion leaders.
- Use the services of professional associations, retired ambassadors of the host country who have worked in the country to build confidence in overseas markets.
· Don’t panic.
· Don’t shy away from reporting facts.
· Deliver the bad news accurately and avoid giving an impression that the tourist office is not being honest and open. Avoid loosing credibility.
· Don’t emphasise the negative. Lay emphasis on how many people were saved, the effort of Government in overcoming the problem.
· Don’t continue with your advertising campaign and try to withdraw the same as early as possible.
· Don’t over react. At times, it is better to lie low and project other positive issues. That is what China did after the Tinaman Square Episode – they aggressively promoted investment opportunities in China but kept quiet on the human rights issues.
· Be sensitive to all issues & be alert all time.