Wholesalers’ Commitment to Expertise in Crisis Management
Well over 80 people attended CATO’s second major one day conference focussing on the theme of effective crisis managmement. The conference was held at Daltone House in Sydney on Thursday Febrary 21. CATO (Council of Australian Tour Operators) is the association of outbound wholesalers and also includes many national tourist offices among its full members. These companies are frequently in the front line of dealing with tourists who are affected by external events including natural disasters, epidemics, political unrest, economic downturns and other external crisis events. Due to the fact that wholesalers package a variety of different travel products, they are also in the front line of assisting their clients when things go wromg during a tour program. Some problems such as hotel reservation cancellations, coach failure, missed ferry connections may not necessarily be their fault but the consumer expects wholesalers to “fix it”. Internal management and operational errors and failures can be as harmful to the reputation of a tourism business as crises beyond the direct control of management.
This was CATO’s second crisis management conference and is indicative of the seriousness which CATO members take risk and crisis management in their operational planning. The first was held in 2016. I’ve spoken at both conferences and both were excellent. CATO’s 2019 conference was one of the best conferences on tourism risk and crisis managment I have ever attended- and I have been to many all over the world. What made it so compelling ?
The CATO Conference, ably Moderated by media professional Chris Urquart, covered most of the key dimensions of risk and crisis management. These included the government dimension which was ably explained by Leann Johnston who is the Director of crisis management and contingency planning, from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Over the past 16 years there has been growing collaboration between DFAT and the Australian travel industry to advance the safety of Australian outbound travellers. Simon Peti from Risk Logic opened the conference by explaining to importance of companies developing a company specific plans to address the risks which are most likely to affect each business and training the management and staff members responsible for dealing with risks to the business.
A panel of three outstanding PR professionals, Robyn Sefiani, Jill Collins and Cara Mygind, discussed the dimension of pubic relations and media relations in communicating timely and accurate responses to crisis events to all forms of media and the key stakeholders. Aaron Zoanetti from Pointon Partners lawyers discussed the vital but often misunderstood legal dimension of risk and crisis management. Aaron, unusually, has extensive experience as both a wholesaler and a lawyer. His presentation focussed on understanding that terms and conditions which appear in many tour brochures may not be legally compliant in an age where wholesalers have a range of contractual and Duty of Care obligations. Fred Estaban from Gow Gates Insurance brokers discussed the Insurance dimension of risk management. He explained that tourism businesses often need help to select the right insurance cover for them. He revealed that a new corporate crisis management insurance policy is now on the market.
Major Garth Callender a former Australian army officer who served in deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan discussed the military dimension of risk and crisis management. Military skills in dealing with a range of threats including scenario planning, agility, damage control, the ability to improvise and succession planning are also vital to businesses.
AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury and Steve Limbick from One World discussed the travel agency and airline approaches to risk management. Airlines and the cruise industry both have long histories of addressing risk at a global level. Steve noted that the One World Group aims to exceed global risk management requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Jayson discussed the importance of protecting reputation of travel businesses at a time in which social and traditional madia are hungry to expose scandal and corruption.
My job as final speaker was to sum up the conference, briefly discuss the research dimension of tourism risk crisis and receovery and introduce the risk, crisis and recovery guide I have written specifically for CATO members. CATO’s General Manager Brett Jardine with the support of CATO Chair Dennis Bunnick and the CATO Committee did a brilliant job in coordinating an outstanding event.