March 12, 2020

Travel isn’t always a bed of roses. There are natural disasters, tainted products, bad actors, data breaches, regional and global viruses, and events big and small that require industries to step up, speak up, and do whatever it takes to care of their employees and customers. 

As the coronavirus outbreak tops 93,000 in dozens of countries, it’s an appropriate time to offer advice on how to handle an industry crisis.

  1. Protect Your Employees, Guests, and Brand

Brands have a responsibility to ensure life safety for associates and guests. Government safety regulations vary around the world, but standards, processes, communications and training can save lives and reputations. This is especially apparent with the impact of the coronavirus on international travel.

An aesthetically pleasing environment will never be able to substitute for a reinforced building structure, visible exits, immediate mitigation, transparent communications, or an effective emergency response plan. 

For example, Marriott’s leadership puts safety and people first. They have rigorously committed to protecting associates and guests around the world. Most notably, during the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, hotel staff members worked alongside numerous firefighters to evacuate guests from the World Trade Center Marriott. Tragically, two lost their lives when the remaining portion of the building collapsed.  

What they sacrificed was obviously not an expectation, but it would be gross error to describe what was done from a life safety perspective without honoring them.  

  1. Develop a Communications Plan

Silence is not golden when it comes to crisis management. Develop an internal and external communications plan to keep associates informed and stay in touch with loyal customers. 

Global brands must have a response team identified, business continuity plans in place, and a crisis communications team and agency. Individual and small groups of hotels can also benefit from identifying the team or an individual who will be the central communicator.

Additionally, a clear process for internal communication is key. Facebook groups are good for check-ins, and it’s important to have access to cell phone numbers and email addresses for all associates, as well as family members..

Depending on the crisis, regular updates may be necessary to make sure company messages are getting out, as opposed to risking rumors or speculation by the press due to lack of information.

Most importantly, do not hide from the press. They have a job to do and are providing news to their readers and viewers. Best practice is to prepare a statement, answer questions (even if just in writing). Sometimes you are the story and sometimes you become the story. Being proactive with employees, consumers and the media gives businesses a chance to tell the story from their perspective.

  1. Listen to Customers

It’s important to provide information as well as listen to what customers think. Find information on social media and ask employees to share what they are hearing from customers. Depending on business impact, adding short surveys to communication updates can give a pulse on what people are thinking and provide important information as next moves are considered to recover lost business momentum.  

  1. Collaborate with Competition

Pay attention to competitors who have also been impacted. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with them. It may take everyone’s effort to rebuild and restore reputation. 

Sometimes the entire industry needs to work together to recover. For example, hurricanes are not generally selective when they hit a major tourist destination. Working together to get the island up and running again, sharing contractors, relocating guests or employees for a period of time, or just communicating with competitors can help. 

The Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Tourism often work to pull everyone together to develop action plans, and at times, provide funding to generate new business and restore momentum. Don't wait to get involved with local tourism or economic organizations.

  1. Rebuild Customer Confidence and Business Momentum

“When is it time to start marketing again?” was the question asked after September 11. Most advocated waiting; however, Marriott International took a different approach. 

The company took on an industry-wide effort through the Travel Industry Association of America. Bill Marriott played the lead role in encouraging companies from across the travel industry to create an ad campaign encouraging business and leisure travelers to hit the road again. It was an industry-wide effort---cruise ships, airlines, hotels--- along with President Bush, telling them it was okay.  

Meanwhile the internal Marriott team debated whether company advertising should resume. Consumer feedback indicated the company could market right away provided the message was light and had a valuable offering. “Come Out and Play” was launched portfolio-wide encouraging families to plan time away together over a weekend of fun. This helped to increase traffic and room night hotels which also meant  front-line team members could return to work at a time when re-building the business was crucial. 

Bottom Line

Process and training, resource identification and tactical plans are the basic advance planning requirements to help minimize personal and brand risk in challenging times, which will inevitably occur.   

Once a crisis emerges, such as the current coronavirus outbreak, history tells us that the impact on the travel industry will extend many months beyond the peak. Identifying ways to continue to operate and provide a customer experience should be a key focus. For instance, if the hotel’s occupancy has tanked, close off several floors so that you can be both operationally efficient and provide an upgraded guest experience for those choosing to stay in your hotel. If the airplane has more open seats than full, provide instant upgrades if load balancing allows. “This too will pass,” as the saying goes, so it’s important to always maintain focus on the consumer experience.  

Lastly, keep in mind employees are watching what management does as much as consumers are. Crisis times are when company values and CEO integrity and leadership are put to the test. Don’t fail.


Toronto, ON (March 9, 2020) – Atlific Hotels’ managed TownePlace Suites by Marriott Sudbury in Sudbury, Ontario has been awarded with the Hotel Association of Canada’s Revenue Performance Team of the Year Award. The hotel’s current and previous General Managers, Lori Poirier and Gary Farstad respectively, accepted the award at the Hotel Association of Canada Awards on February 24, 2020. 

“We are proud of this tremendous achievement,” said Wendy Lamont, Atlific Hotels’ Executive Vice President. “It is a true testament to the strength of the revenue strategy within Atlific. Led by a skilled team of Area Revenue Management Leaders, we have built a culture of teamwork, communication, creativity and strategy within our organization that is inclusive of Operations, Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management to work together and achieve success.”


The Hotel Association of Canada introduced the Awards of Excellence Program in 2004 to recognize distinguished individuals, companies and properties for their significant contribution and commitment to the industry. The Revenue Performance Team of the Year Award recognizes a hotel revenue team that works collaboratively to balance the immediate needs of the business with the long-term positioning of the hotel. This accomplishment is especially notable during the digital age where internet distribution is tremendous. 

TownePlace Suites has demonstrated spectacular efficiency in balancing the short-term needs and long-term positioning of the hotel, attributing their success to strategic planning and collaboration. Through digital marketing campaigns and accommodating guest comments and concerns quickly and efficiently through Marriott’s Guest Experiences Program (GXP), the team at TownePlace Suites by Marriott Sudbury is able to meet the immediate demands of the business, ensuring hotel visitation and guest return. Thorough market research and strategic increases of average daily rate (ADR) has allowed for the team to optimize the long-term positioning of the hotel, increasing shoulder night business and building long-term loyalty through Marriott Bonvoy Member recognition, while improving profitability.


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