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Using social media in hotel crisis management: the case of bed bugs Bingjie Liu and Lori Pennington-Gray Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management, University of Florida, Gainesville,...

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Using social media in hotel crisis
management: the case of
ed bugs
Bingjie Liu and Lori Pennington-Gray
Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, and
Louisa Klemme
Department of Business Studies, Harz University of Applied Sciences,
Wernigerode, Germany
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide greater insights into the-state-of-the-art in crisis
management and aid in better response to health-related crises, with a specific focus on the hotel
industry. This study extends the tourism crisis management model to include social media, concerning
the role of monitoring and responding.
Design/methodology/approach – This study enhances the classic 4R (readiness, reduction,
esponse and recovery) crisis management model to include social media for hotels facing a bed bug
crisis and/or other health-related crises.
Findings – This paper discusses the use of social media at different phases of managing a bed bug
crisis, which include risk reduction, readiness, response and recovery. Recommendations are also
provided for hotel managers to combat health-related crises that are fought out on social media.
Practical implications – Social media has helped to
idge the communication gap between
customers and hotels. Bed bug infestations are a growing health crisis, and they have obtained
increasing attention on social media sites. Without managing this crisis effectively, bed bug infestation
can cause economic loss and reputational damages to hotel properties, ranging from negative comments
and complaints, to possible lawsuits. Thus, it is essential for hoteliers to understand the importance of
social media in crisis communication, and to incorporate social media in hotels’ crisis management
Originality/value – This study serves as one of the first attempts in the hospitality field to offe
discussions and recommendations on how hotels can manage the bed bug crisis and other crises of this
kind by incorporating social media into their crisis management practices.
Keywords Hotel industry, Social media, Bed bug crisis, Monitoring and response,
Tourism crisis management, Health-related crises
Paper type Conceptual pape
To date, the rise in new media channels has helped to
idge the communication gap
etween the customer and the supplier of the product. Particularly, social media has
changed the landscape of crisis communication by providing platforms that are low cost
and easily accessible (Veil et al., XXXXXXXXXXUnlike traditional media, where information
normally follows a one-way path, social media allows instant communication between
all stakeholders in both directions, offering more opportunities for people to share
The cu
ent issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at: XXXXXXXXXXhtm
Received 14 August 2014
Revised 17 November 2014
16 January 2015
Accepted 16 January 2015
Journal of Hospitality and
Tourism Technology
Vol. 6 No. 2, 2015
© Emerald Group Publishing Limited
information and express opinions (Anderson, XXXXXXXXXXThe public also perceives
user-generated content (UGC) on social media sites as more authentic and trustworthy,
which contributes to a communication network that builds upon storytelling, dialogue
and collective knowledge (Freberg et al., XXXXXXXXXXIndeed, the wide use of social media helps
individuals keep up-to-date on information regarding the cu
ent state of the crisis,
while also facilitating individuals and organizations to engage in communication before,
during and after a crisis event, enabling various stakeholders to be involved in crisis
management practices (Wright and Hinson, XXXXXXXXXXAs a growing trend, the on-site and
online crisis management activities are now becoming more simultaneous and
intertwined, and it becomes necessary for practitioners to understand the need
and importance to incorporate social media into their crisis management plans (Sigala,
2011; Veil et al., 2011).
Bed bugs, declared “a pest of public health importance”, recently emerge as a
main health crisis and have obtained substantial public attention on social media
sites (Anderson and Leffler, 2008; CDC and EPA, 2010; De Lollis, XXXXXXXXXXAs bed bugs
travel on human hosts, infestations are more common in places such as hotels and
motels as many people come and go in these establishments. Because of the
increased mobility within our society, various hospitality establishments have
already proven their vulnerability to bed bug infestations based on the increase in
travelers and the resulting high turnover rates of hotel room sales (NYC Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene, XXXXXXXXXXThus, using the case of the bed bug health
epidemic, this paper introduced the role of social media in monitoring and
esponding to crises. In doing so, the tourism crisis management model is expanded
to include social media explicitly throughout the 4R phases of crisis management:
eduction, readiness, response and recovery.
Crisis management in the hotel industry and social media
The hotel industry is susceptible and vulnerable to different type of crises. These may
ange from major crisis such as te
orist attacks, natural disasters and health-related
crises [such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1, Legionnaires disease
or foot-and-mouth diseases], to more common issues such as minor crime or even a case
of food poisoning (Henderson, 2004; Kim et al., 2005; Ritchie, XXXXXXXXXXThe out
eak of
health-related crises has recently caught a vast amount of public attention, which has
led to profound impacts on the hotel industry (Chien and Law, 2003; Henderson, 2004;
Kim et al., XXXXXXXXXXImpacts include a general decrease in tourism demand as observed in
the UK market due to the out
eak of H1N1 in 2009, or economic impacts as exemplified
y the loss of over $28 million in the Singapore hotel market due to the SARS out
in 2003 (Henderson, 2004; Page et al., 2011).
Various frameworks, guidelines and strategies have been established regarding the
subject of tourism crisis management (Chien and Law, 2003; Henderson, 2004; Ritchie,
2004); however, the hotel sector has traditionally adopted more of a risk management
perspective which has focused on safety and security (Wang and Ritchie, XXXXXXXXXXBecause
of this limited focus, hotel managers tend to be less able to handle the situations outside
their rehearsed crisis situation, such as health-related crises (Henderson, 2004; Wang
and Ritchie, XXXXXXXXXXTo develop effective crisis management practices, scholars
ecommend that crisis management plans should address a range of possible crises
events (even ones which have not been experienced before) and a comprehensive
Social media
in hotel crisis
communication plan as part of the response phase, Coombs, 2014; Pennington-Gray
et al., 2011).
Recently, the significance of social media in crisis communication practices has
een addressed, which resulted from the intensive use of social media among the
travelling public, as well as the pragmatic utility of social media as an effective
communication platform for the various hospitality establishments (Coombs, 2014;
Sigala, XXXXXXXXXXTaking a demand-side perspective, tourists regard health and safety
as a main concern when making travel-related decisions, and they tend to stay in
hotels that are free from any kind of safety issues (Jonas et al., 2010; Kozak et al.,
2007). In an attempt to reduce or avoid crisis, numerous sources are sought out fo
information, including word of mouth from friends and relatives, online blogs, social
media sites and others. Undeniably, social media is increasingly becoming one of the
top sources of information, especially during the times of crisis (Anderson, 2010;
Schroeder et al., 2013; Jacobsen and Munar, 2012; Xiang and Gretzel, XXXXXXXXXXTourists
also use social media to share their crisis experiences, express their concerns and
participate in conversations that relate to crisis issues (Sigala, XXXXXXXXXXEmpirical
esearch has documented people’s intensive use of social media to participate in
crisis communication regarding travel (Schroeder et al., XXXXXXXXXXSimilarly, a national
eport shows that 48 per cent of Americans participate in online communities and
social networks and more than half of this group is likely to share crisis information
through these channels (American Red Cross, 2012).
Regarding the supply side of the hotel industry, it is suggested that practitioners
should fully em
ace the benefits of using social media in crisis management plans,
oth from a marketing perspective and a research perspective (Sigala, XXXXXXXXXXIn
egular settings, social media has been extensively used by hoteliers as an
innovative platform to manage customer relationships, and to establish positive
and images (O’Connor, XXXXXXXXXXIn addition to the marketing function, scholars (Fall,
2004; Liu et al., 2015) suggested that the crisis management function of social media,
in terms of monitoring and responding, should not be ignored. Monitoring the
contents generated on social media sites is meaningful for practitioners, in that these
conversations can help them better understand guest concerns, detect signals fo
potential crisis, and, therefore, increase their readiness toward a crisis (Coombs,
2014). Additionally, social media allows the tourism industry and its respective
sectors to provide direct responses, enabling practitioners to engage in dialogues
with concerned tourists/consumers. A recent study found that tourists have a
tendency to express their concerns during a crisis via social media, and they are
particularly interested in responses from the tourism industry (Liu et al., 2015).
Appropriate and effective responses can lead to less tourist anxiety and, thus, aid in
achieving positive decisions for the destination (Sigala, 2011).
In summary, to develop the best practices for hotels regarding crisis
management, practitioners need to listen to the customers and understand tourists’
concerns, in addition to equipping themselves with crisis management plans (Veil
et al., XXXXXXXXXXThis holds true to the new medium of social media, which offers a
unique opportunity for practitioners to monitor the public discourse su
the crisis issue, respond to concerned guests straightforwardly and stay connected
with them at all times (Veil et al., XXXXXXXXXXHowever, most research that has been
undertaken in recent years attempted to avoid or reduce the impact of a crisis on
people’s travel experiences (Ritchie, 2004); however, the role of using social media to
monitor a crisis situation and to respond to tourist concerns has been generally
overlooked (Sigala, 2011; Liu et al., 2015).
Bed bug crisis and the hotel industry
Cimex lectular is known as the common bed bug and is an insect that feeds
exclusively on blood. Although bed bugs are unable to transfer diseases directly,
ed bug bites can cause certain types of health problems, such as itching, swelling,
allergic reactions and secondary infections (Quarles, XXXXXXXXXXBed bugs can be found
globally, but more specifically within the USA. Hotel rooms have become the most
frequently reported spots for bed bug infestations, accounting for three-fourths (75
per cent) of all the bed bug reports (National Pest Management Association, 2014).
Because of the physical characteristics, bed bugs can quickly hide in a hotel room –
etween the mattress and bedding, behind the wall decorations and under the
furniture (Davies et al., XXXXXXXXXXIn addition, these tiny insects
Answered Same Day May 03, 2020 MBA651


Preeti answered on May 04 2020
109 Votes
Case analysis
The study outlined discussion on crisis management framework on ‘bed bug infestations’, a rampant health-related crisis in hotel industry. The crisis management approach extended use and adoption of social media to deal with this rampant health-related crisis. In doing so, the study has presented an action-oriented framework based on developing an effective crisis management plan, outlining practices used at different stages of bed-bug crisis, and resolving the crisis scenario in the best possible manner. The most important feature of the study is expanding the scope and role of traditional crisis management plan through focussing and including social media in the scenario, considering the role of monitoring and messaging for developing proactive and responsive approaches to handle and manage crisis situation.
This co
elates with tourism management research, which emphasises and advocates hotel industry to adopt proactive and responsive approach in dealing with crisis scenario. Additionally, hotel industry is highly em
acing social media as an effective communication tool to interact with guests or customers, providing updates on new practices and norms, hotel status on health-related aspects, and, answering different questions. For example, Trump SoHo New York, Lenox Hotel, etc are some examples, effectively used social media to communicate with public for accelerating the process of handling and recovering from crisis situation (Liu and Pennington-Gray, 2015).
Fundamental stages of crisis
Crisis is understood as unwanted incidents or sudden causes occu
ing anytime, with little or no warning. For lessening the damage of crisis, it is necessary to have proper preparation through appointing crisis communication team in place, and adopting four phases of crisis management for creating a plan to combat and manage crisis, getting operations back to normal. In this context, fundamental stages of crisis management include:
a) Crisis prevention: A forward thinking approach is recommended in this stage where crisis management team is asked to conduct and participate in a
ainstorm session for listing all possible crisis factors and its implications. This comprehensive list is prepared in light of considering past incidents and ensuring placement of proper resources for avoiding repeat situations. The comprehensive crisis prevention list plays crucial role in identifying situations posing threat or...

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