Lessons From The Costa Tragedy

Photo courtesy of Cyr0z

Photo courtesy of Cyr0z

By Kelly Monaghan

I had a prospect recently remark to me “Can’t we arrange to get a really cheap cruise on that Italian line that keeps crashing and sinking in the Mediterranean? Seems they might be under-booked.” Very funny. (Not.)

But there’s a lesson to be learned here (besides not making light of tragedy). To many people, this person’s remark probably makes a certain amount of sense. After all, who would want to sail with a cruise line that had suffered such an embarrassing and widely covered lapse of judgment on the part of one of its captains?

Quite a few it seems.

USA Today recently reported that bookings for Costa are “up significantly” just months after the accident. In fact, bookings are running 25% over what they were at this time last year — well before the accident.

So what are the lessons to be learned?

Well for starters, it just proves the ancient saying “This, too, shall pass.” If your niche — or even the entire industry —  is slammed by a spate of bad news, console yourself with the thought that within a few months things will pretty much be back to normal.

This was true after the 9/11 disaster, after the initial invasion of Iraq, and it’s proven true in the case of Costa.

There’s another lesson here, if we want to take it. You may have heard some business guru saying that the Chinese word for “crisis” is written by combining the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” (It must be true because Wikipedia says it is!) Well, we can apply it to this type of situation.

The danger for agents when confronted with some ghastly bad news about a supplier is that they’ll panic. The opportunity springs from the realization that there will, indeed, be a short term reaction to the bad news.

What a perfect time to appeal to those bottom-feeders on your client list! You know, the ones you don’t pay much attention to because they always want the cheapest fare? There will be bargains to be found in the wake of bad news, but the window will close fairly quickly when the memory fades from pubic consciousness as it inevitably does.

The immediate aftermath of this sort of bad press might also be a good time to have a heart to heart with your DSM at that supplier. They will certainly appreciate a word of sympathy from a colleague and they may be more open to going the extra mile in booking group space down the road. Remember, they will be feeling considerable pressure to bring bookings back to normal.

Both these strategies require, shall we say, a certain amount of tact. You can do yourself more harm than good by handling things in a ham-fisted manner. But if you think you have the people skills and the negotiating chops, you might want to bear this little tip in mind the next time you open the paper and read bad news about one of your top preferred suppliers.

Read the USA Today article here.

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Lessons From The Costa Tragedy was last modified: October 23rd, 2015 by Kelly Monaghan