Orlando, it is often said, is the theme park capital of the world. With Florida’s theme parks and attractions attracting millions of tourists, what plans do any have for disasters? How should and how would the tourism market cope? Blooloop’s Chad Emerson visited with Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray for an exclusive interview on the new crisis management program for the tourism industry that she is heading at the University of Florida.
Blooloop: How did the idea of a tourism crisis management program first come up?
Lori Pennington-Gray: As a personal interest of Drs. Thapa and myself we saw the need to work with the industry on planning for crises which affect the tourism industry. As crises continue to rise in recent years- it seemed like a timely venture for us.
B: Share with us the different people and places you visited while developing the program.
P-G: We have met with and shared dialogue with a variety of key influential tourism leaders who also share our enthusiasm for the topic. Specifically, Ms. Joni Newkirk of Integrated Insight has been tremendously supportive of our Institute.
B: What are your ultimate goals for the program going forward?
P-G: Ultimately we would like to be seen as the primary educator for the Industry with regard to developing and creating effective tourism crisis management plans. We would like to train working professionals on how to create effective plans.
B: What are the different types of crises for which the program can prepare amusement park operators? Natural disasters? Terrorism? Others?
P-G: We categorize crises as either human-induced or nature-induced. In the human-induced category there are terrorism, crime, political acts, hijacking, aircraft crashes, industrial incidents/chemical spills, technology systems failure, surface transport accidents, cruise ship or ferry disasters, and oil spills. The nature-induced category includes medical epidemics, wildfire, hurricanes, floods, tornados, avalanches, earthquakes, mudslides/rockslides, ice storms, violent storms and tsunamis.
B: While developing the program, what are some important things you learned along the way?
P-G: How much work it is to put together a good plan. The level of detail needed for a good plan is not intuitive. Our plan helps working professionals to be more focused with their time and therefore put together a more detailed and effective plan which will help mitigate the impacts of a crisis as well as aid in recovery if one occurs.
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