Preparing a Crisis Communication Plan.... The Time is Now!

By Susan Stoga Principal, Carson Stoga | October 28, 2008

Like all industries, the hospitality industry has its share of crisis...and as anyone who has worked the hospitality front lines know, a crisis seldom happens from 9 to 5 when everyone from general manager to controller to sales manager are on-site. Indeed, most "situations", whether great or small, happen in the wee hours when the newest front desk clerk seems to be in charge.

That's why it is so important to develop a sound crisis communication plan and keep it a vital part of operations and any new hire programs. Just as associates learn reservations systems, sign up for health care or learn about their 401k, this plan should be on the high on the agenda. While no crisis is ever the same, being prepared, in a general sense, will have a positive impact on any post-crisis quarterbacking.

There are a variety of crisis situations that can arise and the truth of the matter is that a solid crisis communication strategy may be the only way to safeguard your brand's reputation and maintain a safe and reputable image. The impact a crisis can have on your ability to service customers and grow your business varies from the loss of a day's work to the loss of your business altogether. Whether it is product malfunction, assault, fire, labor disputes, kidnapping, hostage situations or a natural disaster, the following procedures should get you going on the path to preparedness.

Getting Started

Make certain that all associates know how to contact the MOD in the event of any unexpected or unusual circumstance.

More importantly, create an environment that encourages the flow of communication at any time of day, or night. Sometimes, an issue that may not seem significant can have significant consequences and as a result, over-communication is better than no communication. Many situations never morph into full blown crises because they were handled at the outset, instead of allowing them to come to a boiling point.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.