Strengthening crisis management in the hospitality sector

  • risk management

    Dr Alexandros Paraskevas

    In a turbulent business environment, highly effective crisis management plans are paramount.

    Over the last ten years, the hospitality sector has seen safety and security increasingly become a major influence on where travellers choose to stay, meaning industries have had to adapt their risk management practices in order to sustain competitive advantage.

    Thanks to an innovative partnership with Oxford School of Hospitality at Oxford Brookes the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) greatly enhanced their effectiveness in managing risks, and achieved worldwide recognition as an industry leader. Pioneered by Professor Alexandros Paraskevas, an expert in hospitality and strategic risk management, his conceptual approach to risk and crisis management had a significant global impact on the hospitality industry.

    Whilst at Oxford Brookes, Professor Alexandros Paraskevas undertook research on crisis management and terrorism. The research introduced a new approach to crisis response based on complexity theory principles as well as a more structured approach to anti-terrorism strategy in tourism destinations.

    The research attracted the interest of senior risk management at IHG who participated in the study. A relationship was formed, with IHG contributing and gaining insights from Professor Paraskevas' on-going research. 

    Building lasting partnerships

    Professor Paraskevas’ refined anti-terrorism strategy framework and in particular his work on business continuity alerted IHG on the need to have more rigorous and dynamic crisis response plans, not only for its hotels (those were already in place) but also for its 30 corporate units or what they call Global Operating System.  As a result a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Oxford Brookes was established, co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

    In 2011, the benefits of this KTP with Oxford Brookes were highlighted when a real-life crisis situation occurred in Japan during the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. IHG’s 39 hotels and a regional headquarter were affected, but thanks to effective response plans they recorded no human losses for the company and its customers throughout these disasters. 

    The project itself went onto to be rated as `outstanding' by the TSB who placed it at the top five per cent of KTPs nationally.

    Olympic impact

    In 2012 the Holiday Inn, part of IHG's portfolio of hotels, was the official accommodation provider in the UK for the London Olympic Games. Several hotels would host officials, athletes and visitors as well as the Olympic Torch, identified as a potential target for terrorists. 

    In a year-long project, Professor Paraskevas and colleagues were asked to develop a hotel health, safety and security audit methodology. It was piloted in most of the 250 IHG hotels in UK before being launched globally to the 4600 hotels in the company's portfolio. Used globally, it is a key source of information for risk indicators and crisis signal detection.

    The underpinning research, and the outcomes and findings from the project delivered wide-ranging benefits not just for IHG, but also the broader hospitality and tourism industry, educational institutes and project researchers

    These are just two examples of the many projects Oxford Brookes worked on with IHG, and which have ultimately helped shape risk management education for the hospitality leaders of tomorrow.

    Find out more

    Read more about the full Impact Case Study on RADAR.

    Further information on the University’s Oxford School of Hospitality Management can be found on their website