04 Mar

Opinion: Crisis management in the social media world

The tragic events in Luxor last week, which resulted in multiple fatalities, were shocking and the thoughts and sympathies of the whole travel industry go out to the families of those involved. There are many theories about the cause of the incident, but now is not the time to speculate and we should wait for the results of the investigation by the Egyptian authorities who have suspended all balloon flights over Luxor pending the findings.

At times like this ABTA is often the first point of call for crisis support and media enquiries, particularly where an ABTA Member is involved. Our assistance focuses on understanding the facts of the crisis based on ABTA's insights from the Foreign Office, destination authorities and members and providing an accurate and balanced view of the situation, as well as offering appropriate consumer advice.

Last week, we saw the speed at which events can unfold. Within hours of the incident happening I appeared on Sky News talking about the events in Luxor highlighting the support being given to the survivors and the need to wait for the outcome of the Egyptian authorities investigation before jumping to conclusions. By the end of the day, my department had carried out over 20 media interviews relating to the incident.

Coincidentally, on the same day I also happened to be speaking at ABTA's Travel Essentials event which was focusing on helping tourism businesses ensure that they have effective health and safety and crisis management procedures in place.

In today's world of social media, 24 hour rolling news channels and news media websites, you need to ensure that you have your key facts in place and statements and spokespeople fully prepared and ready to respond in a very short period of time. If you don't provide this information, the vacuum is very quickly filled by a range of other sources: commentators, 'experts', eye-witnesses and members of the public and that may mean your voice gets lost in the narrative.

Working with the media is important, but what you say must be underpinned by robust health and safety practices as well as crisis management procedures and it's critical that every travel business is well-prepared for dealing with the worst case scenarios. During the Travel Essentials event, ABTA launched its latest guidelines for Members in this area.

Victoria's blog was published by Travel Mole