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You may think a crisis will never affect your business, and we hope you are right. However, the frequency of crisis events related to the natural environment, such as bushfire, flood and drought, has risen over the last decade. Victoria has also endured disease outbreak, chemical leakages and other man-made emergencies in recent years. A crisis can have a profound effect on the tourism industry whether it directly impacts upon a tourism business or simply occurs within the same region, State or country. Tourism regions are vulnerable to public perceptions of health and safety. A crisis can result in a downturn in visitation to your business. Businesses that are prepared can respond and recover more quickly and this guide is designed to help you plan so you can do both, as soon as possible. It includes practical tools, tips and case studies. The principles and concepts in this guide apply to tourism businesses of all sizes and sectors, located within regional or metropolitan areas, although it has been prepared particularly with small businesses in mind. It can be used as a resource to supplement your existing management planning or to help you start afresh. Given the diversity of possible crisis events and the fact that every specific event will unfold differently, this guide does not set out prescribed actions to follow. Rather, it canvasses a range of generic actions that will help you prepare your business for, and respond to, the consequences of a natural or man-made emergency. This guide is designed to complement the Crisis Communications Handbook for Regional and Local Tourism also produced by Tourism Victoria.


For the purposes of this guide: A crisis is a serious event that can be either perceived or real.  A crisis disrupts normal activities and impacts negatively on the operations of a tourism business and/or region in the immediate to short term. Some emergency incidents may develop into a crisis. Emergency incidents that may develop into a crisis include:

  • Bushfires
  • Flooding
  • Drought
  • Water pollution
  • Blue green algae outbreak
  • Severe rain or wind storm
  • Tsunami
  • Landslides and mudflows
  • Major transport accident (e.g. train, boat or aircraft crash)
  • Terrorist incident
  • Major civil unrest
  • Safety queries re: visitor activities
  • Pest plagues, e.g. rodents, insects
  • Animal attack, e.g. shark
  • Oil spill
  • Hazardous material accidents (e.g. gas leak)
  • Outbreak of disease (e.g. Legionnaire’s, Meningococcal)
  • Earthquake
  • Food poisoning
  • General safety (eg: bag snatching, pickpockets etc)

While this guide is focused largely on managing crisis issues, the information will be relevant to the management of many other types of business risks, such as dealing with a life threatening illness and receiving negative criticism in the media.


Emergency management in Victoria involves coordination of the activities of an extensive range of organisations. As a tourism business, it is useful to know that there are a number of organisations who can help you to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a crisis. The Figure I: The Big Picture and you chart includes the most important organisations that you are likely to come across in the crisis management of your business (depending on the nature and severity of the event). Further information on these organisations are in the Resources section.

Figure 1: The Big Picture and you

Figure 1: The Big Picture and you

How does the guide work?

Section 1: Preparing for the unexpected This section will guide you through questions and topics to help you prepare for the unexpected. These include how to identify and minimise risks to your business, how to develop emergency response procedures, and what to put in place to get your business operating again.
Section 2: Responding to a crisis
If a crisis does occur that affects your business, this section will help you to respond more effectively.  It is useful to have read this section prior to an event occurring so you are aware of the issues your business might encounter. Topics include your customers and staff, money, and media and marketing, and managing stress.
Section 3: Recovering from a crisis
This section outlines what steps to take in the three weeks following a crisis event and steps to take over the next three months to three years. Topics include Your Customers, Money, Your Staff, Recovery Marketing, and Managing Stress.