Monday 26 September 2011

The cost of failure

David Tebutt's murder and the kidnap of his wife provoked outrage from the establishment and fear from potential western tourists.

Wealth does not guarantee safety. Indeed it provokes envy and motivation for the Somali pirates for whom this is a lucrative business.

Their hunting ground covers wide stretches of the Indian Ocean, as far south as the Seychelles and now even the pleasure beaches of Kenya are now within reach of the speedboats they use.

Kenya's tourism Minister said: "We strongly condemn this senseless act of violence on innocent visitors to our country."

It obviously made a lot of sense to the pirates.

The managing director of the tourist board, after promising justice and apprehension of the criminals went on to say:
"We further wish to reassure the travel trade that the safety of our tourists is paramount and the Government has proper machinery in place to ensure high level security of our tourists".
So what went wrong this time and what positive new steps have been taken to prevent a re-occurrence?

This and other recent calamities, natural and unnatural, accidental or deliberate make the case for every tourist office to have a Crisis management programme in place. One that is carefully thought through, researched and rehearsed.
Crisis management is not about being in a crisis. It involves:

* A continuous process of risk assessment and being proactive about dangers we face.

* Professional management involving timely and effective communication through the key media channels by the right people.

This means having a semi-permanent team in place, determining who will be in charge, who will be the spokes-person and who will monitor media reporting and response. The plan will identify both the internal team and those in each tourist providing country as well as the key media contacts.

Regular updates of risk and how you will respond needs to be planned and rehearsed, so if tragedy occurs, the tourist office responds with sympathy and positive action.

As the old adage says: ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.

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