When selling (and fulfilling) vacation dreams, the last thing we want to see on the horizon are big, nasty storm clouds, metaphorical or real. While we don’t look forward to these clouds, we certainly need to consider them, and the effects of natural or manmade emergencies pass more quickly and linger for a shorter time if there is preparation on the front side of the storm.
Not every emergency gives us a “heads up” that it’s coming (Tsunamis, oil spills, avalanches for example), but others, like hurricanes and blizzards, do allow us a bit of time to get our ducks in a row. Here are a few suggestions from our team to help you prepare.
The first step is assessing your team’s roles, responsibilities, and processes as a property management company in an emergency situation.
- Create a checklist of tasks for prepping the physical units or homes for an emergency. Figure out any pieces that will require help from current guests or owners, and at what point they need to evacuate (not many vacationers want to be staring out the window at a piece of plywood duct taped on for protection).
- Do guests contact you for emergency updates and procedures, or should they be talking to the front desk at the resort complex? Knowing this and directing guests/owners to the correct resource will cut down on confusion.
- What communication method do you prefer? Email is a must, either with a blast or via your software (CRM or PMS), since just about everyone has access to their email. Other additional options include social channels, updates on your site, phone or text (depending on your system).
- What is the best resource (other than you), for getting updates on the emergency? Typically, this is the county site, but this could change according to the particular emergency.
Once your processes are nailed down, it becomes much easier to weave in communications. There are four groups to consider, although, depending on the event, they may not all need to be included — owners, current guests, incoming guests and potential or future guests. Many of these messages may be similar to an extent for quick use when an emergency comes around, but every situation is different, and every message should be tailored to the event.
Owners: Owners have the most to lose during an emergency that threatens actual structures and they need to be treated accordingly. That said, the message should be very straightforward.
- Pre-emergency event message: Owners will need to know everything possible is being done to protect their property. Outline what plan you have in place as far as preparations and when to expect an update regarding property damage, etc.
- Post event message: You may be slammed with repairs, etc. but being responsive and diligent in following up with your owners should take precedence. Among the most pressing questions on every owners’ mind “What happened to my property?”. If there was substantial damage anywhere, it will require a personal call. So the general (email) message is usually “No news is good news. If you haven’t heard from us directly, we either haven’t been able to access your property, or there was nothing beyond minor damage if any damage at all”.
Current Guests: Of paramount concern is the safety of visitors in your area.
- Pre-emergency event message: What do they need to do to get prepared for situation A, B or C? Is there the possibility of a required evacuation? Can they help by bringing furniture inside? Include links to any emergency resources that will provide information regarding the event as well as emergency preparation and what to do in the case of a power outage.
- Post event message: Hopefully it’s a message saying it was much ado about nothing. If not, take some pressure off your phone lines by listing FAQs regarding travel insurance and where to file that claim. Use your judgment with the severity of the event, but this is also an opportunity where you may offer those who were impacted by the event an incentive to give your destination another chance — we want these guests to return!
Incoming guests: You may use very similar messaging as for current guests while making small tweaks make sure they know whether or not they should load up and head to your destination. Obviously, depending if you’re a fly-to or drive-to market, airlines may make some of this decision taking it out of the guest’s hands. Either way, these guests will also be interested in the Travel Insurance they hoped they never needed and will want to know when they can come and if it will be worth coming down.
Potential/Future guests: While safety should be the first consideration, there is an opportunity here from a marketing perspective. If you are, for example, posting regular updates to your Facebook page as a hurricane blows through your neighborhood, your reputation as an authoritative expert in the area will only solidify.
Emergency preparation is just another type of insurance. You hope you never need it, but it sure is nice when you need to use it.