Predicting the Unpredictable Contingency planning the key to handling an unexpected crisis
By Chris Young*
UNLESS you have a crystal ball, foreseeing travel business hurdles is near impossible.
However, by assuming these occurrences will happen – whether it is an airline strike, random hurricane, or sinking of a ship – having a contingency plan in place for these events is essential as your ability to deal with such crises can show your clients why they should always book with you, and not be tempted by the internet where they are out on their own.
One of the most appealing aspects of travel is unpredictability.
Walking through a new city and finding a quaint café tucked in a side street can create memories that will last forever.
The same goes with booking travel for our clients, sometimes in our research we discover amazing hotels and destinations. But what happens when unpredictability, such as a natural or manmade disaster, causes problems?
Jenny Watson, Resurg performance group facilitator, suggests: “Don’t just react – take a step back, take a deep breath and give yourself a minute to think about the big picture.
“This will give you a chance to get past the panic and implement the contingency plan.”
A pre-planned process will ensure you and your employees can swing into immediate action and not waste time figuring out what needs to be done.
Flying by the seat of one’s pants can be exciting, but not in this instance.
Here are some ways to maximise your time and minimise any negative impact if a crisis involves your clients:
Identify the clients involved, contact the wholesaler or airline and find out what plans they have in place.
Try to contact your clients and assess what you can do to ease their situation.
This may include making additional accommodation and travel arrangements and dealing with the travel insurance company.
By nominating one or two consultants to solely and effectively deal with the situation, your other staff can go about their daily business and increase sales in other areas.
It is wise for your business to develop a policy for clients wanting to cancel travel arrangements because of a particular event. For example, after the Costa cruise ship sinking, many people wanted to cancel their cruise bookings.
Your agency needs to contact wholesalers, airlines, and insurance companies to find out what their policies are then you can decide if you will offer a full refund, give a refund less service fee, or offer a credit.
Whatever your decision, issues such as manpower and overtime need to be taken into account.
Your job is to educate your clients, both current and potential, about what the best scenario is for them while you consider how this affects your business.
By offering honest, helpful advice this is the perfect opportunity to show your professionalism and it will go a long way to retaining clients and gaining new ones.
Of course, any travel hitch will cause financial challenges for your business.
Depending on the gravity of the situation, the impact may be short-term, but in cases where an entire component of the industry is affected, such as cruising, then it may take a while for that area to gain trust from the public.
It’s important to assess the financial health of your business both in the short-term and long-term during these events. Is your budget strong enough to weather a setback? If it isn’t, what financing options are available for you to get through this crisis?
How quickly and effectively your business reacts will depend on how organised you are, and when people’s lives and your reputation are at stake, one can never be too prepared – just ask the Boy Scouts.
Final thought: Even if your business has a contingency plan, it doesn’t hurt to hold a brain-storming session and reassess ways of turning a negative event into a positive one.
Create a check-list and ensure staff are aware of what is expected of them next time a travel crisis arises.
* Chris Young is training and implementation group manager at the Resurg Group and has 14 years’ experience in retail business management. Chris is responsible for Resurg’s education strategy where he develops and helps facilitate the workshops and performance groups that are a key part of Resurg’s profit improvement methodology.