Crisis communication in Tourism and Aviation

Martin Riecken is specialized in crisis communication and has worked for 17 years in different communication departments in the aviation industry up to the present day. In his presentation at the Media University Stuttgart on Mai 11th he shared his experiences in crisis communiation with Public Relations students and talked about communicative issues in the tourism business.

„The bigger the company the bigger the media attention“, that is how Martin Riecken, Head of Crisis Communication of the TUI Group (Touristik Union International), described during his talk the relation between his company and the media. Not only journalists are important stakeholders he has to face in his daily life, all the customers of TUI, of the largest tourism group in the world, are one of his target groups.

Already in his first years at the Deutsche Lufthansa AG he learned how important and risky safety is in this sector. According to statistics, flying is the most secure way of travelling, but no other line of transport business gets so often criticized. The attack on nine-eleven changed aviation and safety got more in the focus of politics, press and customers. Also today issues like terrorism, political crisis or natural diseases in holiday countries belong to his working day at TUI.

„There is a extremly high media interest and high potential for crisis in aviation business.“ ~Martin Riecken


Martin Riecken from the TUI Group during his presentation. Foto: Anne-Marie Berlin

Afterwards Riecken showed the students an overview of possible crisis, he revealed the causes for them and describe how they can arise. Together with the students he scribbled some current crisis of big companies on the blackboard. So what is typical for crisis? All crisis have in common that they are unpredictable, chaotic, can hardly be controlled and arise unexpected. This is often caused by a strategic failure which causes a high media attention.

„Crisis can`t be avoided but they can be prepared.“ ~Martin Riecken

How to respond and deal with crisis sounds easy in theory but is always an issue of perfect preparation and practical implementation. Riecken gave a short overview of steps in which a crisis should be handled: At the beginning the communication department has to acknowledge the facts, then give instructions to the public and also to other departments of the company. If a damage or attack caused victims, the company has to show concern and empower all affected persons. Afterwards a demonstration of control over the crisis is very important and quick action should take part.

Finally the students had the chance to ask Riecken detailed questions about his own experiences and feelings in such complicated situations and how he personally deals with such hard strokes of fate.

Facts about Riecken
Riecken´s career in the aviation business started  in 2000 at the Deutsche Lufthansa AG. He worked there as the Director of International Communications (2012-2015) and in the position of the  Director Corporate Communications The Americas (2007-2012) in New York. In the moment he works for the TUI Group in Hannover. If you want to read more about crisis communication and be up to date with the latest news, here you can find the blog of Martin Riecken

About Julian Reitner

Ich studiere im vierten Semester Public Relations an der Hochschule der Medien. Seit Oktober 2016 liefere ich Lesestoff direkt aus unserem Studiengang.