Time to Develop &”Plan B&”

No one anticipated terrorists flying airplanes into skyscrapers on 9/11.  Similarly, there was no contingency plan to deal with volcanic ash shutting down European air travel.

There are lessons to be learned from such surprises.  During the shutdown of European air space travelers trying to get back to Europe tended to be concentrated in the U.S. in gateway cities, tourism destinations, and business centers.  New York serves as all three types of cities.

Early in the volcanic ash crises, staffers at NYC & Company, which is the promotional arm of the city, sized on the idea that something had to be done for stranded travelers.  Within a day, a plan was approved by management and included the participation of private sector companies and received political support.  By the end of the first day, April 16th, the New York mayor announced offers of hotel and transportation discounts for stranded travelers. Customer service does not come cheap, but the basics of business must apply to all facets of the travel industry.

The speed and coordination that took place was impressive.  While the discounts offered were modest, this has the potential of being the beginning of a new way for U.S. cities to respond to such crises.

All U.S. (as well as worldwide) gateway cities, tourism destinations and business centers need to start working now on “Plan B” for the next crises that no one could have anticipated in advance, but that everyone could foresee might strand travelers for an undetermined amount of time.


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