Balancing Risk and Reputation in Tourism
Any travel writer producing an article on Orlando Florida before June 2016 would have naturally focussed on the fun-filled city in Florida’s north where the tourism offering was dominated by Disney world and a lively nightlife. The only cloud on the horizon may have been from the risk of tourists becoming victims of petty crime and over exposure to alcohol and drugs. Orlando’s overall reputation as a safe and family friendly tourist destination was about as good as it gets.
Two events over the past week have changed all that.
A murderous rampage by a heavily armed alleged Islamist terrorist kills 50 people and wounds 53 more at a Gay nightclub. This was followed by the terrible story of a little boy savaged to death by an Alligator in the grounds of a Disney resort in Orlando. In the space of a few days in June public perceptions of Orlando as an ideal destination for tourists has plunged from the sublime to the subterranean. Although both events were clearly aberrant to the usual peace which dominates Orlando, they illustrate the fragility of a destination’s reputation. A good reputation is the greatest asset a tourism destination and a tourist business can have.
As tourists professionals, our most pressing challenge is the maintenance, advancement and protection of our reputation. A core element in guarding the reputation of tourism businesses and destination is a mastery of risk management On Friday 17 June, 75 tourism professionals and local government officials gathered at the Prince Henry Conference Centre in SE Sydney (Australia) for a morning forum devoted to addressing risk and reputation management. The event was organised by Randwick City Tourism and sponsored by Randwick Council. What was demonstrated was that in this small part of Sydney, 75 tourism professionals cared enough to spend a morning understanding the critical link between risk and reputation. In the case of Sydney, many of its coastal beaches and beachside properties had experienced inundation from massive waves whipped up by an extreme weather event in early June. By the time the story reached the other side of the world, headlines of Sydney awash had replaced the facts that some properties sustained damage and some beaches lost a lot of sand.
The management of reputation in tourism requires a number of interrelated strategies and they apply globally. They include developing relationship with the media (traditional and on-line) that matters most to your destination and businesses. It also involves making preparations to deal with the most likely and potentially serious threats to your business or destination. Reputation and risk management also involves an integrated approach to security. However, businesses while being prepared to deal with threats beyond their direct control also have to focus on ensuring that the service chain delivering products and services to customers are working harmoniously. Unfortunately, as we have seen with Orlando the best of tourism businesses and destinations can encounter an event which challenges its reputation. Restoring confidence, especially at the destination levels requires a recovery alliance involving both the private sector and the government sector of tourism.