Another Company’s Crisis Can Become Yours

The Diamond Princess- Photographer: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg

I have always stressed someone else’s problem can become your own.

The coronavirus proves the point. Since it broke out in China, companies are experiencing financial damage as well as reputation problems. And, the virus will continue to impact even more companies as it spreads.

So far, the biggest hit is the cruise industry. Royal Caribbean’s ship, The Diamond Princess, docked in Japan for a two-week quarantine. Now, those American passengers are quarantined in the U.S. for another two weeks. Tragically, two passengers have died. Another cruise ship, Holland America’s Westerdam, docked in Cambodia after being turned away from other Asian ports. Norwegian Cruise Line cancelled an upcoming Asia voyage.

It’s like a disaster movie. Cruises in general have become scary. Think of public perception. Who wants to be stranded in the middle of the ocean with deadly virus passengers? What if the whole ship is contaminated? Who wants to be imprisoned on a ship or military base? And, you’d better like the person you’re sharing a cabin with because you might be locked up together for a while.

None of the cruise lines did anything wrong before the coronavirus burst on the scene. No one expected to be affected by an illness in China. Now the virus is holding bottom lines hostage. It’s time to rethink crisis plans–and insure they work company-wide. I imagine plans already include shipboard illnesses but not to this level. The industry itself has to make plans to restore trust. The question “what are the very worst things that can happen?” has taken on new meaning.

As the saying goes, “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.” For those who think, “It Will Never Happen Here”—the answer is it can.

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