The travel and tourism industry is highly susceptible to various PR crises, ranging from natural disasters and political instability to health outbreaks and safety concerns. When a crisis occurs, the reputation and viability of travel and tourism companies can be severely impacted. Effective tourism crisis management and crisis communication strategies are essential to manage these situations, minimise negative consequences, and maintain the trust of travellers and stakeholders. 


Preparedness and planning

Preparation is the foundation of effective crisis communication. Travel and tourism companies should proactively identify potential risks and develop comprehensive tourism crisis management plans. These plans should include clear protocols, roles and responsibilities, communication channels, and contact information. Regularly updating and testing these plans ensures that the company is well-prepared to respond swiftly in times of crisis.


Rapid response

In the event of a crisis, timely communication is crucial. Travel and tourism companies should establish a tourism crisis management team responsible for monitoring, evaluating, and responding to the situation. The team should be trained to gather accurate information quickly, assess the impact, and formulate a coherent response strategy. A rapid response demonstrates a commitment to transparency and helps control the narrative.


Transparent and honest communication

Openness and honesty are critical in tourism crisis management. Travel and tourism companies should provide accurate information to the public, travelers, and stakeholders. Avoiding speculation and exaggeration is essential to prevent misinformation from spreading. If the company is facing challenges or setbacks, acknowledging them and sharing the steps being taken to address the issue can build credibility and trust.


Consistency in messaging

Consistency in messaging is essential to avoid confusion and maintain trust. All communication channels, including social media, press releases, website updates, and direct communication with customers, should convey a consistent message. This uniformity reinforces the company’s commitment to addressing the crisis and provides a unified front.


Utilizing social media effectively

Social media platforms play a significant role in crisis communication due to their real-time nature and wide reach. Travel and tourism companies should use social media to share updates, safety instructions, and responses to frequently asked questions. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance between being informative and avoiding excessive posts that might appear insensitive or overwhelming.


Empathy and compassion

During a crisis, expressing empathy and compassion is essential. Travel and tourism companies should convey genuine concern for the well-being of affected individuals and communities. This humanises the brand and demonstrates a commitment to supporting those impacted by the crisis.


Addressing concerns proactively

Anticipating and addressing concerns proactively helps alleviate fears and uncertainties. For example, if a crisis involves safety concerns at a destination, travel companies can share information about enhanced security measures and precautions being taken to ensure traveller safety.


Adjusting marketing and advertising

In the midst of a crisis, the tone and content of marketing and advertising campaigns may need adjustment. Companies should avoid promotional content that could be deemed insensitive or inappropriate given the circumstances. Instead, focus on sharing information about the crisis, safety measures, and support for affected individuals.


Engaging with stakeholders

Maintaining open lines of communication with stakeholders, including employees, customers, local authorities, and partners, is essential. Address their concerns, answer their questions, and provide regular updates on the situation and the company’s response. Engaging with stakeholders demonstrates transparency and fosters trust.


Learning and improving

After the crisis is resolved, it’s important for travel and tourism companies to conduct a thorough analysis of their crisis communication strategies. That involves thinking about the things that worked well and the things that can be improved. These insights can inform future tourism crisis management plans and help the company be better prepared for similar situations in the future.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.