Written on 14th October 2019

Typhoon Hagibis – An Event Manager’s first-hand experience

Weather can make or break an event and most professional event organisers spend a huge amount of time hoping for sun and making contingency plans for rain. For Marjory Brown, TAG’s UK Director of Events, the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis at the end of a week-long event in Japan required some serious crisis management planning. This was TAG’s fourth of six events in Japan this year and they have a long history of incentives and industry tours to the country. Marjory’s extensive experience in delivering events in the region was vital in this testing challenge.

As a global travel management company, TAG is responsible for the flight bookings for their guests and this enabled Marjory and her on site Event Assistant, Sasha Ramanathan, to get ahead of the game and make plans for earlier flight departures for as many guests as possible using TAG24, the company’s emergency team. However, with Tokyo full to the brim with rugby supporters, not all guests were able to fly home before the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis.

The key ingredient for any event manager in a crisis is strong supplier relationships, which can be relied on to support contingency plans. TAG’s preferred supplier programme includes selected hotel partners around the world and Hyatt Hotels, and the Park Hyatt Tokyo, is one of TAG’s hotels of choice for their frequent events in Japan. This enabled Marjory to ensure the remaining guests were able to stay on in the hotel whilst Tokyo was packed with visitors. The J Team, represented by MM& Company in the UK, is TAG’s regular Japanese DMC and stepped up to ensure early airport departures overnight and a revised, continued and additional programme for the remaining guests. Longevity of relationships and teamwork under pressure are what any event professional needs in a challenge.

For the remaining guests, Marjory and Sasha worked with the on site and UK based clients to ensure a coordinated, clear and regular supply of information about the arrival of the typhoon and subsequent plans. Having worked through the night on Thursday night on the flight plans, Marjory and Sasha joined the amended sightseeing programme on Friday and revised dinner plans and worked during the arrival of the typhoon on plans to keep the guests entertained during the remaining days before the final flights home on Tuesday, including watching Japan in their rugby match against Scotland. The importance of having Marjory, an experienced event professional, on site has been vital for both TAG and the client.

Marjory commented on the challenges she has faced in the last few days “All events need to be constantly monitored for potential issues but dealing with a typhoon is a first for me. We faced a very testing 48 hours changing flights and the ongoing programme but a close client relationship and supportive suppliers helped us all get through this so far. I will be very relieved when the last guest arrives home but we still have a couple of days before this happens. Looking out from the 44th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo on the empty streets below is surreal but making sure our clients feel we have managed this situation in the best possible way is the most important factor.”

For Event Assistant, Sasha, this was her first trip to Japan. She added “As an event assistant, you are taught to be prepared but you never think you will experience something like this first hand and, whilst obviously not ideal and a very stressful situation for everyone, seeing and experiencing it first hand is an invaluable event management experience. You don’t have time to stop and think about the incident itself, you have to deal with the station calmly and practically and think about the best course of action for your guests. This has been a real test of my natural ability to handle stressful situations in a calm manner and try to make sound decisions despite lack of sleep and working at speed under pressure and I have learned a great deal from the experience and Marjory’s handling of the situation.”

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