AS the phones rang off the hooks, Kuoni’s website
proved invaluable during the initial hours of the tsunami crisis,
according to managing director Sue Biggs.

When news of the disaster emerged, worried families, reporters
and customers with advanced bookings all tried to call the operator
for more information. Unable to cope with the volume of calls a
recorded message directed customers to the website where Kuoni was
posting information as quickly as it found it. “One of the things
we learnt from this was the benefit of having information posted on
the website,” said Biggs.

By 2pm on Monday, the day after the disaster, there was an
update continually refreshed as information changed.

As the disaster unfolded, so the need for more specific
information became apparent, and Kuoni was soon posting information
for each hotel when details were known.

Senior manager customer service Dinah Wilson, who oversees the
emergency plan, said it was first time hotel-specific details had
been uploaded on the site. “This is something our customers really
appreciated. We know this from the number of hits our site
got.”

Updating the website quickly with such hotel-specific
information was just one of the unexpected problems the operator
faced which had not been immediately obvious. Wilson hopes to
ensure the website is speedily updated in the future

Meanwhile, the operator’s national advertising campaign
was about to launch, with a picture of the Baros island resort in
the Maldives destined to appear in newspapers from next Monday.
Although the resort is back in business, the decision was made to
replace the shot with a more generic tropical beach. “That’s
something that will go into our action plan in future,” said
Wilson.