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Contingency Marketing Plan
– War In Iraq!

Carol Verret / November 2002
How will a war with Iraq (or anyone else for that matter) effect travel and the hotel business? Are you in denial or are you making a contingency plan for your hotel? 

Several months ago, I wrote an article on contingency planning as an addendum to the Marketing Plan. That dealt with infrastructure changes in the market, the loss of a large contract or those things that could significantly change the status quo in your hotel market. At that time, we weren’t even concerned about a possible war.

For those of us who remember the Gulf War, the implications are profound. If you recall, travel came to a screeching halt after the war began. A large corporation that shall remain nameless issued a memo to all employees, advising them that if they were on the road they should return home and all business travel was suspended until further notice.  Fortunately, that war was relatively short. That may not be the case this time.
The travel industry has yet to recover from the changes in travel patterns associated with 9/11 and the economic downturn. Couple that with the concern over new terrorist attacks that could be associated with this war and it could spell disaster for those who don’t plan and even for those who do, it will significantly alter the revenue projections that have just been finalized in most marketing plans.

Not one hotelier to whom I have spoken has given this much thought. Alan Greenspan’s attempt to reassure us by indicating that he didn’t think war would have a significant impact on the economy has done little to reassure the uncertainty in the markets or the Consumer Confidence Index.

While a war will most certainly have an impact, giving some thought to how it may effect your hotel and developing an alternative strategy prior to the event shortens the response time. In the old SWOT analysis model, the T stands for ‘threats’.

Which segments would be effected? Most certainly corporate and leisure air travel to foreign destinations and gateway cities, such as LA and DC will be impacted. Large convention venues and attractions where large numbers of people congregate have been mentioned, as have large resort destinations. Drive travel will still be the preferred domestic mode of transportation although the destinations are likely to remain those closer to home or close to military installations where family members may have been called to serve.

What can individual properties do to minimize the impact on occupancies and revenue? Below are just a few of the steps that you can take now in your Contingency Plan.

  • Poll your accounts. Don’t assume that you know or understand how a declaration of war is impacting them or is likely to impact them and their travel policies. Ask every account and every group this tough question. This will prevent you from being blindsided by a drastic drop in an accounts transient travel, group booking cancellations and unanticipated attrition in convention attendance.
  • Develop or maintain high visibility in drive markets. If you haven’t done this already, start now. Target transient through your property’s web site (you do have one, don’t you?) and your state’s tourism web site. Post specials and packages aimed at the drive market. Make sure that you have rate driven collateral at your state’s gateway visitors centers, invite the volunteers or staff of those centers to tour your hotel. Get a billboard (remember those) and make sure that you can re-paint it twice a year with special offers seasonally. 
  • Implement a group sales strategy aimed at drive markets. This includes state and regional associations, corporations and affinity/SMERF groups. These groups might go further afield in less uncertain times. If your sales staff can make a sales trip to a market within 2 -3 hours of your hotel, imagine how much you will save in expenses.
  • Call billeting and the visitor centers of any military installations in your market. Billeting is the department that is responsible for housing military personnel. In the event of a call-up of the reserves and National Guard, they may not have enough beds on base. They can also direct you as to how to get your information out to families of military personnel called to duty who may want to visit them. 
  • Offer special leisure packages to the military and their families. If you are a resort location, make special offers through the military and government travel agencies or the military bases. This is especially compelling if your property is within a reasonable drive distance of a military installation. 
Walter Isenberg, President and CEO of Sage Hospitality, participated in a panel discussion at the recent Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association annual meeting, a conference where I also presented a seminar. In response to a question from the audience about what keeps him up at night, he responded, “The state of the world.” This is profound not only from a personal perspective but a business perspective. It keeps me up at night as well.  The point is that if this war does occur, it is those who have prepared for the possibility who will be in the best position to implement their strategy. While it may not eliminate the impact of such an event, it will give you an edge at revenue recovery. Everyone else will be lamenting the event and excusing poor performance on ‘uncontrollable’ events.

We can’t always control the things that happen but we can choose how we respond and react.

Carol Verret is a twenty-year veteran of the hospitality business, having begun her career with Four Seasons and Westin Hotels in Montreal, Canada.  She most recently was Vice President Sales and Marketing for Sunstone Hotels before she left in 1996 to start her own business.  Carol Verret Consulting and Training provides consulting and training services to the hospitality industry in the areas of customer service and sales.  For a complete description of her services, access her web site at   Comments and feedback are appreciated and can be communicated via phone at (303) 618-4065 or email at [email protected]. Be sure to subscribe to Carol's free monthly newsletter: ResultsWoW Customer Service by sending an email to:[email protected] Put Subscribe in the subject line. 

© 2002 all rights reserved 

Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site:
Email: [email protected]
Also See: Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000

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