The terror attacks that were carried out just over a week ago were the worst terror attacks to have taken place in Paris in over 70 years.
Amidst a nation thrown into mourning, the travel plans of many thousands of people were thrown into complete disarray, with border controls tightened, flight and rail services delayed, and many travellers unclear as to the certainty of their current and future plans.
TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager, Michael Gazal, says his company’s focus in such an event is to provide their personal travel managers (PTMs) with as much information as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to track down and ensure the safety of any clients that may have been affected.
“It’s a sad reality in today’s world that we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario, be it a terrorist attack or a natural disaster,” he explains. “We have very clear plans and systems in place so that we can swing into action immediately and get on with the task of providing our PTMs with the appropriate client lists.”
In this case, Gazal says the National Partnership Office (NPO), which has the responsibility of putting the crisis plan into action, was alerted to the situation in Paris within two hours of the first attack taking place, while events were still unfolding at the Bataclan theatre.
“Less than an hour later, we had provided our entire PTM network with a comprehensive Client Location Report, detailing all clients that were currently in Paris or would be arriving into any point in Paris between 1 and 20 November,” Gazal says.
In many cases, that information also included the name, phone number and address of the client’s accommodation arrangements, which Gazal says further simplified the task of contacting clients. Throughout the weekend, Gazal says the NPO continued to communicate any updates to its PTMs by email, SMS, Intranet and TravelManagers’ Closed User Group Page on Facebook.
For the PTMs, this support, and the speed with which it was provided, was invaluable. Gayle Dawson, representative for Queensland’s Springfield Lakes, was one of the PTMs who has since expressed her appreciation for the support of the NPO.
“Having the support of NPO when we are worried and trying to help our clients is so important and those efforts do not go unnoticed – we all really appreciate it so much.”
As Gazal explains, when things go badly wrong as they did in Paris last Friday evening, for many of the PTMs it’s very personal.
“We are an organisation of passionate travellers, so when somewhere as beloved as Paris is affected by a terrible tragedy, it really hits hard. On top of that you have to consider that for many of our PTMs, their clients have become their friends, so it’s very disquieting to know that they may be in danger or distressed, far away from home. That’s just one of the reasons it’s so important that we provide every assistance in verifying all clients’ welfare as quickly as possible.”
In the end, 25 of TravelManagers’ PTMs had a total of 46 clients who were affected by the Paris terror attacks. Once those details had been established, PTMs were able to contact those clients to make adjustments to travel arrangements, keep them advised regarding airline announcements, insurance company advisory notices and other detail impacting on their journeys.
Michelle Desmarchelier, representative for Berowra in New South Wales, is another PTM who has been grateful for the quick action taken by the NPO.
“It’s comforting for all PTMs to have the support of NPO but it’s sad that we need to be travelling down this path (yet again!). I am truly distressed by what’s unfolding in Paris.”
Gazal is also very grateful with the way the situation has been handled and the support that the NPO has been able to provide.
“We are lucky have some fantastic staff who are prepared to drop everything, even on a Saturday morning and over the weekend, to make this all happen. Without their dedication, it would be nearly impossible to provide our PTMs, and their clients, with the support that really need.”