TTE: Eurostar breakdown highlights need for social media crisis plan

The social media activity around the breakdown of Eurostar trains in December demonstrated the need for travel companies to have a crisis management plan in place, according to experts.

Five Eurostar trains broke down days before Christmas due to freezing weather conditions, leaving hundreds of customers stranded overnight. The incident caused a stir on Twitter and Facebook, with some passengers Tweeting updates from the trains.

Speaking at a panel session at the Travel Technology Show in London’s Earls Court today, Vexed Digital chief operating officer Xanthe Arvanitakis said companies who engage in social media have to be prepared for anything.

“There is a reality that you can’t control what is being said. You’ve got to be ready for all kinds of activity.”

Eurostar ecommerce ancillary revenues manager Georgia Cleland, who was in the audience of the session, said the operator had done its best to respond to what people were saying on social networks.

“We were the unlucky ones to be the first to experience this,” she added.

Meanwhile, TUI Travel – Activity eCommerce director Rob Laurens said the Eurostar incident had been amplified by Twitter. “Social media amplifies the very good and very bad.”

Virgin Atlantic head of marketing Claire Higgins, who recently launched social networking site vtravelled.com, said it was vital to put resources in place to make sure users get a response. She said: “There are no avoidance tactics. People will talk about you, and if you don’t respond it’s failure by your company.”

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