Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Good Morning, This is Your Wake-Up Call

The recent events in Japan, resulting from the almost unprecedented 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that followed should serve as a wake-up call to hoteliers all over the world.

You could argue that there was nothing more that could have been done to better prepare the hardest hit areas from experiencing the devastation that they have.  Earthquakes in Japan are nothing new and as a result, they have implemented a great many technological advancements in this area over the years to protect their people, their businesses and their infrastructure.

But this isn’t about Japan.  This is about you and your business, your employees and your guests.

How prepared are you, in the event of a natural (or man-made) disaster?  Could you, your employees and your guests survive, without any outside assistance, for 7 days?

It’s a tough question, but I would suggest that it is an important one to ask yourself, and, if you don’t like the answer, to take action, now, to ensure a more positive outcome than you would likely project at this moment.

I am confident that if I polled the major branded hotels in major destinations, they would all have an emergency plan and/or a business continuity plan – I know, because I participated in the exercise and helped to write some of them, but I also know that when we first wrote many of these plans, we identified what we would need, as dedicated emergency supplies, in order to withstand and survive a major disaster situation for 5 – 7 days, and it wasn’t cheap.

That, at the time, created a problem – the cost to adequately stockpile the necessary amounts of bottled water, blankets, flashlights and other essentials was cost prohibitive, and then there was the challenge of identifying a dedicated space to store these supplies, where they would (hopefully) be accessible in the event of a crisis, depending of course, on what that crisis was.

So what was the answer?

In many cases, the answer was to develop a long-term plan to purchase the necessary supplies over time, to offset the costs, as well as identifying and preparing a space to store the supplies, and to develop some sort of policies and procedures to deal with the need to rotate the stock to some degree, to ensure that any of the consumables, along with things like flashlight batteries, were not rendered useless over time.

So what has happened since then?

I would speculate that the honest answer would be; “not much.”

In the face of the economic challenges that seem to have plagued our industry for at least the last decade, I would wager, with considerable confidence, that most, if not all, of the items that were once deemed necessary to survive a crisis, have repeatedly been deferred in favour of more immediate demands on limited funds.

So, what’s the answer?

The answer will vary somewhat from property to property, to some degree, but I would argue that the case needs to be made, now, to hotel owners and/or management companies, while the horrific images coming out of parts of Japan are still fresh in peoples’ minds, that this issue needs to be dealt with, now, because continuing to delay on the necessary emergency preparedness essentials is akin to playing Russian roulette with your business and the lives of your employees and your guests.

Many hotels and/or hotel companies share a common commitment, which manifests itself in the statement that; “the safety and security of our guests and our employees is our #1 priority.”

I believe that’s true, so now it’s time to walk the talk . . .This is your wake-up call . . .

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