The role of meeting planners has taken on many new dimensions in recent years. Globalisation has brought withn it increased awareness of political influence, economic and financial movements, currency affects, security issues and with it opportunities. Ms Selina Chary, CEO of Pacific World DMC discussed with MICExchange some of the issues of Risk management faced by Desination Management and Event Planners in a global areana. Chavry stated, “In these times of uncertainty, with an increasing number of incidents occurring globally, risk management has emerged as one of the key priorities when planning for an event. “MICEXchange posed a set of Q&A’s to get at some core issues facing a global Meetings and event industy.
Q. Does Pacific World DMC assess risk assessment for groups and events and look at the general political climate, collaboration with local authorities such as police, emergency and public authorities when recommending a destination.
Ms Chavry – “When we are asked by a client to give our recommendations on a destination we have our teams on the ground that are responsible for assessing the viability of the event and keeping abreast of what’s happening in the destination. Depending on the type and scale of the event our teams will be in close liaison with any relevant bodies and authorities. In cases where clients have already chosen their location and have their own risk management plans, we are charged with not only working alongside and ensuring their plans can be implemented locally, but also providing that critical insight that can only really come from those who are based in the destination and have the relationships with the local authorities. This is vital in some countries in order to gain required the buy in, support and permits for their event.”
Q. Reports demonstrate that travel is extremely safe. However what can the travel industry and event planners do to firstly ensure their clients are properly attended and secondly, how can they reassure the travelling and corporate clients of their delegates safety and security.
Ms Chavry – “It is all in the preparation, every event organiser has a care of duty, as does the destination, venue, accommodation and all third party suppliers for the event. Planning in advance is key, ensuring that every process is transparent, consistent and up-to-date. An emergency procedure document should include every detail that can then be checked by the planner and subsequently the DMC. All parties involved in the event should be briefed on the plans and be aware of what their role and actions would be in the case of an emergency. However, whilst we can plan to be as safe as possible, what we cannot do is guarantee. Being aware of risks, having the discussion, facing the elephant in the room and using every one who could be relevant at the time of an incident is fundamental to the accuracy of that final risk management plan.”
Q. What are the special measures an Event Planner should consider when delivering a program or event in a different country, for instance, how different are the various arrangements between USA, Europe and Asia when considering travel safety and security.
Ms Chavry – “First of all we recommend that the planner should ensure they have a reputable DMC in each country, which can provide that local guidance, insight and advise. The global security of any conference wherever it is needs to be analysed in the same way irrespective of the destination. ” Chavery continues, “With the risks associated with today’s travel any country anywhere faces the same potential threats; no country can afford to become complacent. In fact destinations that have seen more than their fair share of incidents happening in the past can be more prepared and equipment to act in the case of an emergency, as they have been forced to reassess their security measure and put robust plans in place. With any destination it’s still all about pre-planning, precaution and having the right partners.”
Q. Do you expect event costs to rise due to the necessary added precautions event planners must consider when preparing events in these turbulent times.
Ms Chavry – “Yes, I think that is a reasonable assumption as it would be highly negligent for any meeting planner to not assume there would be related costs associated with high risk security management and providing adequate security precautions.”
Q. Some parts of the world are inherently more risky than others, how does Pacific World ensure its clients are well informed of any latest issues and how best to respond in a difficult situation.
Ms Chavry – “Our teams on the ground are responsible for keeping abreast of the local climate and for ensuring they are well prepared for any potential situation that could occur. It’s our duty of care to keep our clients well informed throughout the planning process and in advance of their events, so if something arises they can make a confident decision if they still wish to proceed with their plans.”
Chavry pointed explained, “For example we had a site inspection for a large congress taking place at the time of the terrorist attack in Paris earlier this year. The organisers decided not to abandon Paris after the atrocities by cancelling their event, so we helped to reassure our client by putting additional measures in place to help the attendees feel safe during the event. This was done through hiring additional visible security personnel, ensuring all venues, vehicles, hotels and restaurants were thoroughly checked and secured prior to the event, working with local authorities to ensure correct authorisations and support were in place and ensuring all delegates were provided with instructions on what to do in the case off an emergency.”
Q. Driving to the airport is many times riskier than international travel itself, how can the industry and indeed, Pacific World and its partners reassure and inform their clients and ensure they have a rewarding travel experience.
Ms Chavry – “It’s the responsibility of all industry players to ensure they are in turn working with reputable suppliers with all relevant safety and security measures in place. Pacific Worlds suppliers are required to go through our due diligence process before working with us. Our in-house due diligence tool permits us to carry out assessments on accommodation, activities & excursions, agencies, transfer and transport services. This allows us to benchmark safety standards of services offered, provides a clear picture of risks presented by suppliers and reduces the likelihood of incidents affecting our customer’s experience.”
Q. Does Pacific World DMC have a coordinated response plan in the unlikely event that a local partner DMC is facing a difficult situation involving safety and security.
Ms Chavry – “We have both Global and Local Emergency Response Plans in place that all offices, including any partner offices are required to follow. Which plan is activated will depend on the severity of the situation and will be the decision of our appointed Regional Emergency Response Team. If required we have team of trained specialist, known as our Care Team that can be deployed to assist at any event location.”
Q. When delivering very large scale events or partnering with large event organisers, does Pacific World DMC have a coordinated response should it be needed.
Ms Chavry – “There are of course many important factors to consider in the area of Health and Safety when planning a large event. When working with other event organisers it must be established during the planning process what steps are to be taken in the event of an emergency… for example who is leading the coordination efforts and what plans will be activated. If you are jointly managing, the communication becomes even more important to avoid confusion. For example what terms and definitions are being used between the parties, what is the escalation method, who is the decision maker, how are incidents categorized in terms of severity? These discussions are essential to ensuring the smooth execution of any emergency response effort.”
Q. How important is it to involve local authorities in large scale event planning, and how far ahead should an Event Planner prepare security measures.
Ms Chavry – “Regular communication with local authorities is fundamental in the planning process of a large event, to ensure the required support and guidance is in place. For example, are you kept regularly informed by local police (or any other government body) about any security concerns in the country/region/city that your event is taking place? You need to be one of the first parties to be informed of any potential situation, so you can work to put any mitigation plans in place. It’s crucial that you also have a point of contact in the police that you can reach out to for inquiries or to report suspicious activities when the event is taking place.” Ms Chavry continued – “When planning mass movements for large events you will also need the support of the transport police. For example during the Rotary Events we planned in both Thailand and South Korea, we worked with the authorities to gain special access for increased waiting times, for permission to use shorter route where possible, to allow non parking areas to be utilized and importantly to assist with bomb check on all vehicles.”