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Crisis Management and Recovery: How Hotels Responded to Terrorism

Third, clients must be reassured. Hotel general managers should contact as many
group and regular clients as possible in their respective hotels. At the destination
level, political leaders and industry leaders should contact and reassure convention
groups and major demand-generating organizations. Internet sites should be coordinated
and updated with timely information. Press events should be staged and
coordinated to broadly reassure the public that the destination is open for business.
If new business related to the crisis emerges, hotel managers and industry leaders
should coordinate their response to this new demand factor to ensure that the destination
maximizes its benefit from this new demand. The fourth step in recovery,
funding, developing, and launching a recovery-marketing plan must not be taken
until the first three steps have occurred and until target audiences have recovered
from the initial shock. Special funding may be achieved through reallocating existing
resources, generating contributions from private industry, appealing to foundations,
or appealing to local, state, or federal government agencies. Normal market plan
actions and funding will undoubtedly be insufficient. Target audiences may be emotionally
prepared to visit a destination impacted by crisis in different stages. Typically,
customers who have compelling reasons to visit, or who live closest to the destination,
will be the earliest visitors to return. In all marketing and media communication
it is vital that the hospitality industry project a positive, confident reassuring message
and avoid any defeatist, self-pitying, or negative tone or language. The hospitality
industry needs to identify and target markets that are most likely to travel to the destination,
and remind prospective customers of the great reasons to visit and, if possible,
create some new reasons/events to generate visitation. As the market recovers and
as the anxiety of normal customer bases of the destination recedes, hospitality and
tourism leaders should reduce marketing spending to normal levels and reevaluate
marketing messages and the distribution of marketing expenses. Finally, destination
hospitality and tourism leaders should find appropriate opportunities to honor those
who bravely served on the front lines of the crisis response and recovery efforts and
properly pay respects to those lost in the crisis. This model provides a framework of
key steps in managing response to and recovery from a malevolence crisis as gleaned
from the successful efforts of the Washington, DC hospitality industry. It is not meant
as an exhaustive checklist of crisis response and recovery activities. Individual hotels
and individual communities require more specific planning.
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks stunned the hospitality industry in the
Washington, DC, metropolitan area. However, hospitality leaders gained valuable
experience in handling the crisis and managing the recovery. Two lessons are clear
from this experience. First, familiarity with crisis conditions and training in all
aspects of crisis response and recovery will better enable hotel managers to handle
future crises. It is highly recommended that crisis management expertise and the
ability to plan and practice crisis response be added to the qualifications of all key
hotel managers. Second, resiliency and a positive, cooperative attitude hasten
recovery. Local clusters of hotels, brands, and all stakeholders affected by a crisis
should coordinate their efforts in a local manner to optimize the speed and completeness
of the initial response and shorten the recovery time. No matter how serious
the crisis, the damage is reduced, and the recovery is hastened, when managers
are prepared, and when all stakeholders in a crisis cooperate and coordinate
response and recovery efforts.

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