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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Thomas Cook team ready to help customers in emergency
Article Type: Notes and news From: Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 40, Issue 4.
A travel company's response to terrorism and disasters was to enlarge its team that supports customers caught up in incidents.
Thomas Cook Signature, a specialist brand of Thomas Cook Group, which offers upmarket holidays, increased its team from 14 in 2002 to 88, following the 9/11 and Bali bombing attacks. The team has also had to cope with hurricanes, bomb blasts in Sharm El Sheik and the after-effects of the Asian tsunami.
The training the team received earned Signature a UK National Training Award. The training included workshops run in partnership with the Center for Crisis Psychology (CCP), which specializes in trauma counselling.
“Each incident provides an opportunity to develop,” said Janine Lane, learning and development manager of Thomas Cook Holidays Division. “During Hurricane Ivan, in 2004, three trained staff flew to Barbados to evacuate customers and staff from Grenada. They provided emotional support to staff from our sister company, Neilson.”
Since 2002, 300 staff have been trained, 90 percent of them from Signature brand and the rest from Thomas Cook UK. The company ran a test day - a simulation based on an explosion at a hotel in Cuba - that was observed by the Foreign Office.
Two members of the specialist-assistance team flew to Bangkok during the tsunami. “They inspected the area, spoke to passengers and visited people in hospital once able to get to resorts,” said Janine Lane. “As a result, we received only minimal complaints out of 240 customers in the resort.
“During Hurricane Ivan and the Asian tsunami we received feedback that Signature staff were the only tour-operator employees seen in resort. We are aware other companies have incident teams but have not crossed paths with them and see ourselves as the industry leader.”
Signature invested £5,000 a year in emergency training, and Kevin Tasker, of CCP said:
Training on emergency response and trauma aftercare within Thomas Cook Group is extensive, thorough and carried out with enthusiasm throughout all aspects of the organization. Training offers a good mixture of Thomas Cook and CCP trainers.
The vast majority of feedback from the training is excellent, and many Thomas Cook staff are quickly able to put their training into practical use, overseas or in the UK.