Much has happened during the last days. It all started in Tunisia with the self-immolation of a street vendor that led to massive protests and ultimately the end of the Tunisian regime. In a short time, protests spread across the entire region affecting countries such as Jordan, Morocco and Yemen. However, the protests in these countries are nothing compared to what is happening in Egypt right now.
Over the last days hundreds of thousand people have been demonstrating in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and other Egyptian cities to end the 30-year long rule of President Mubarak. Due to the overwhelming protests Mubarak declared not to run for president again, but refused to resign immediately. Although some people died and violence recently increased, there have so far been no major incidents involving tourists. Still, it remains open how this situation will develop within in the next days. This whole development in the Arab region is not only very significant for global politics, it also shows the risks the travel industry has to deal with.
Due to the riots the US State Department ordered all non-emergency US government personnel to leave Egypt and advised all US citizens to do the same and therefore arranged charter flights for those who want to leave the country. Other countries such as England, China, Australia and Greece reportedly did the same. But not only governments provide those services, there are also travel companies that take care of their clients and react to the dangerous situation in Egypt. For example, Viking River Cruise chartered a plane to get its customers flown out to Frankfurt and Expedia is trying to expatriate its staff members. Interestingly, Viking River Cruise even used Facebook to interact with its customers. Hotels had to coordinate themselves and make sure all their guests were safe. Fortunately, they succeeded in doing so and no guest was harmed.
To guarantee that nothing goes wrong during such a crisis, many companies rely on the help of crisis management companies such as International SOS and Medex. International SOS and Medex help companies by assessing, managing and advising them on security related topics of their travelling management personnel. To access the information necessary to provide those services both International SOS and Medex use PASS’s XX/1 multi-GDS transaction server.
Of course, many travel industry companies cancelled or postponed trips to Egypt. Among these companies are big players such as Abercrombie & Kent, Thomas Cook, Delta Airlines or Norwegian Cruise Line which redirected its cruise ship to Istanbul instead of Alexandria.
Evacuating customers and minimizing overall damage and costs is a difficult task that requires a high degree of organization. That’s why the management of travel companies has to be prepared for any casualties and be able to ensure maximum service and performance during times of emergency. Emergency plans and business continuity plans have to be installed. Also, travel companies have to closely monitor the developments in the regions they operate in to be able to react as soon as possible and if possible to anticipate those developments before they escalate. After all, their reputation is at stake, if they fail to cope with a crisis like in Egypt.
Today, it cannot be foreseen if the events in these Arab countries will have a huge economic impact on travel companies operating in this region. But since Egypt is a popular destination for tourists from Europe and the USA, this might well be the case.
Image by igor.stevanovic