After 31 bystanders were killed and over 270 injured in terror attacks on a train station and airport in Brussels, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel alert for Americans in Europe. The guidelines are starting to sound familiar: “U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events.” Sports events like marathons are the epitome of large events and sustainability goals have made using public transit to reach sports events a top priority for the sports travel industry.
While America’s attention is focused on national elections and the latest terror attack in Europe, the local news from 2016 Summer Olympics host country Brazil has further implications for sports travel. Local media giant O Globo has reported memos circulating among foreign embassies in Brasilia that there is a risk that some type of coup might replace the existing government, which is handling a messy impeachment crisis. The reports prompted quick denials, but that’s still not good news for the sports travel industry. This may be a good time for the sports industry to get ahead of the curve and test results oriented approaches that can keep fans engaged and safe at the same time:
- Traditional club organizations. Many sailing, golf and tennis clubs and some swim clubs have relied on traditional screening and guest pass policies that have kept their activities safe and sought after. The details vary, but this example is fairly standard. Applicants pay an application fee (no bounced checks, of course), have several existing members sponsor them, pay dues in advance and participate in club activities for a trial period of several months. At the end of the trial period, a membership committee votes on extending annual membership. No terror suspect has ever gotten past this kind of screening process. Yes it is exclusive, but marketing professionals have had a long history of success in turning exclusivity into a competitive advantage.
- Insurance agent consultations and competing proposals. Experience counts. Insurance industry experts have a lot more experience assessing possible risks such as obstruction of emergency exits, unsafe waiting lines, careless handling of sports equipment or poor employee training. Existing insurance agents can be relied upon to do a professional premise inspection and make recommendations. Sometimes this can have the additional benefit of qualifying for additional discounts. And competing insurances agents may be able to offer a valuable second opinion.
- Best practices and educational resources. The International Facility Management Association offers relevant management education programs which include a module on emergency preparedness and business continuity. This trade group is also hosting a large convention April 12 to 14 in Indianapolis where facilities managers can meet with vendors who have specialized expertise. Next month’s Sport Accord Convention will provide additional opportunities to benefit from the expertise of successful event managers and also present a “City To City Forum” that can promote sharing of best practices.
- Affinity travel. Affinity travel had a heyday in the era when air travel prices were regulated by an international cartel and charters were one of the only ways to get low fares. These membership group travel programs also maintained an excellent track record for personal safety during an era when plane hijackings (air piracy) was a bad problem. A specialty tour operator called Academic Arrangements Abroad has revitalized this model for college alumni networks and its success shows that many sports organizations could follow this formula.
- Screening official websites for non-functioning links. Maria Sharapova’s defense in her banned substance case is starting to sound familiar. The critical information she needed was not published directly in a document with traceable delivery, but rather using links to web publishing that is inevitably unavailable at times for maintenance or updates or does not display properly on certain browsers. Trying to get people critical information using hyperlinks is known to be undependable. In an era when getting people the right information at the right time has become essential to public safety, this is no way to do business.