"It may seem like a stretch, but think of the local CVB as your caretakers (“parents”) if a crisis situation arises during your tenure in their destination."
Being in the meetings and convention business, I am especially tuned in to and fascinated by how meeting planners, delegates, hotels and convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) react to the extraordinary circumstances that occur when a natural disaster or manmade crisis happens in a meeting destination. After listening to the stories recounted by people who have been involved in such a scenario, it’s clear that, repeatedly, when the unimaginable happens, the CVB kicks into high gear to be sure visitors to their destination are protected and informed.
It’s not unlike what takes place in a family during an emergency situation. The parents disregard everything else that seemed so important in their everyday lives just moments earlier to focus solely on getting their children to safety. It’s the law of human nature: the young are entrusted to the care of adults to ensure that the next generation will survive, and at that time nothing else really matters. How many times on CNN have you seen flood-devastated parents whose home has been reduced to rubble say tearfully, “We’re so lucky. . . we’re all alive. . . ” The house can be rebuilt, but the lives are irreplaceable.
In times of crisis, human beings react with the fight-or-flight response where, sensing a threat to survival, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones give us a burst of energy and strength by increasing the heart rate, slowing digestion and directing blood to major muscle groups, thus increasing strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running. Males and females tend to deal with stressful situations differently. Males are more likely to respond to an emergency situation with aggression (fight), while females are more likely to flee (flight), turn to others for help, or attempt to defuse the situation; during stressful times, a mother is especially likely to show protective responses toward her offspring and affiliate with others for shared social responses to a threat.
It may seem like a stretch, but think of the local CVB as your caretakers (“parents”) if a crisis situation arises during your tenure in their destination. The fight AND flight response kicks in as the CVB strives to get the emergency under control and work in concert with the community (police, firefighters) to minimize the results of the impact on your attendees. Suddenly the factors that were so important to the CVB and hotels when booking your meeting, such as revenue to sleeping room ratio, occupancy rates and city budget constraints, hold little importance in the face of a potential catastrophe. The CVB shifts from its role of broker between the client and the stakeholders, to guardian of the destination’s visitors.
One example of the CVB as crisis coordinator occurred in March, 2012 when an electrical substation in Boston’s Back Bay area caught fire during the 6,000 delegate AAPHERD (American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) convention, affecting four hotels in the block. Beth Stehley, vice president of sales and convention services at the Greater Boston CVB, recalls, “We worked with the hotels to ensure they had staff and knew what their emergency plans were. We worked with the group to determine that everyone was safe. We communicated information from city officials regarding what and when issues would be resolved. In the end, the group chose to end their meeting early and we helped get that message communicated. Safety for all was our number one concern.”
Feel confident no entity has stronger contacts within the local government, education, business, and hospitality communities than the CVB, all working together to protect and inform your attendees during an emergency.