ETOA Warns the Travel Industry: Be Prepared!
At a seminar organised by the European Tour Operators Association in London, Cynthia Barbor, a travel law specialist and partner at K&L Gates London, warned against complacency: “Under the new Act, individuals can still be convicted of ‘gross negligence manslaughter’. Individuals may also be prosecuted by foreign authorities where a death occurs in their jurisdiction.”
In some cases, Corporate Manslaughter could apply in the UK even if a disaster happened abroad, for example: “If a tour operator contracted a hotel, and continued to place groups there despite knowing the site to be unsafe, it might be argued that harm was sustained in the home country”. Conviction carries an ‘unlimited’ fine, which could be as much as 10% of a business’s turnover. Companies can also be ordered to take steps to make sure the management failure is never repeated, and to publicise full details of a conviction.
“Costs resulting from these fines and orders – or any criminal penalties – cannot be insured against,” explained Alan Lumsden of Vantage Insurance Services. “Tour operators should collect all clients’ travel insurance details, and ensure they have adequate public liability insurance on top of that.” Additional insurance options include D&O (directors and officers cover). A company’s ability to comply with their own duties as far as liability insurance is concerned will be affected by their ability to handle emergency situations.
Jeremy Skeet, of the BBC World Service, stressed the speed at which a story can gain momentum. “News and footage of incidents now arrive at newsdesks in minutes, if not seconds.” Companies affected need to be ready to respond immediately. When doing so, they should follow these rules: “First, be media-aware – it is crucial to have staff who can make a ‘holding statement’ to the media. Second, be honest – do not pretend you know or do not know something, as this will give people reason to see you as cynical or uncaring. Third, never put profit before welfare and never accept money for stories.”
Companies also need to prepare their own procedures for dealing with a crisis. As David Perl, of crisis management specialists Docleaf, puts it: “A crisis is any situation which could potentially affect confidence in your organisation.” Assessing risks, preparing checklists and running training courses are vital to safeguarding your organisation’s reputation. Being able to react at any given moment is vital, and this can only be achieved through careful and thorough planning.
Adam Buckmaster, European Operations Manager at ETOA, said: “Companies should ensure that their systems for dealing with emergencies are comprehensive and well-rehearsed.” Following this seminar, ETOA is revising and will relaunch its emergency procedures guidelines, and is publishing a coach safety card for use by passengers on escorted tours.
For further information, please contact Adam Buckmaster on +44 (0)20 7499 4412, email href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com.
Since its foundation in 1989, ETOA has grown exponentially to include over 400 member organisations, of which 102 are Tour Operators. Collectively, ETOA represents over €6billion spending on accommodation and travel services annually.
ETOA provides representation at the European government level for companies involved in bringing tourists to Europe. The Association promotes greater awareness of the benefits provided by the group travel industry in Europe - particularly increased income and employment. ETOA also influences European tourism policy and legislation.
Areas of specific activity include:
• Promoting Europe as a tourism destination
• Establishing codes of conduct and guidelines for its members
• Establishing commercial opportunities between buyers and sellers
• Working with other travel&tourism associations to raise the industry’s profile
Adam Buckmaster European Operations Manager ETOA Ltd. 6 Weighhouse St, London, UK W1K 5LT Tel: +44 (0)20 7499 4412 Fax: +44 (0)20 7499 4413 www.etoa.org