All crisis situations, from a hurricane to an accident, present significant hurdles for a hotel to continue its day to day operations. The challenges take many forms and are often difficult to predict. Certain crisis pose a physical threat to the property, while others threaten its public image, customer base and short as well as long-term financial stability.
Once a crisis hits, it is too late to plan. Therefore, hotels must have a well developed crisis management plan which includes training, drills, testing procedures and putting in place additional external resources should the worst occur. This management plan must be regularly updated taking into account all emerging threats, as well as internal changing in staffing and operations
Define Which Crises May Occur
Take a look at the recent trends in your region, nation and around the world, as well as emerging trends in hotels and weather and health-related issues. These trends can be large in scale like a hurricane, as well as a small local event like a robbery or a cyber attack on your guest database. Building strong relationships with your fellow hoteliers and taking advantage of the network of peers offered within CHTA can help your hotel prepare.
Plan the Essentials
Take advantage of the resources in your region and country. Reach out to your local law enforcement and hotel trade associations. Regional organizations like the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) offer comprehensive and up-to-date information to assist in your crisis management plans. CHTA also has a Hurricane Procedures Manual available to all members and Knowledge Center complete with guides and manuals for crises situations ranging from Hurricanes to Zika.
Create an internal team, including your legal counsel, insurance partners and public relations experts to identify the risks that will trigger the response plan, create a clear chain of command and establish protocols for moving through the plan. Emergency contact information is also essential and should be updated regularly. Make sure that a representative for each of the following operational issues has a voice on your crisis management team: staffing, transportation, power, food service and information technology.
Being able to communicate beyond standard telephone and Internet services is critical to any disaster response. Add emergency text alerts to your crisis team’s cellphone service or consider satellite phone service that works when cell phone service is down. Add to your emergency telephone list a person or persons outside of your region if available, that will not be disrupted by the crisis at hand. Determine the most effective method to reach guests, on and off property. Select one spokesperson that will be responsible for all media and public statements.
One of the most important parts of a crisis management plan is to learn from prior mistakes (yours and others), update your plan and practice often. Drills are essential to avoid costly mistakes made due to panic. Having a plan will ease nerves, give all hotel staff a sense of purpose during the crisis and mitigate damages.