The potential implications for Village Road Show following the Dreamworld tragedy
No one can deny that the tragedy at Dreamworld was a crisis communications bungle of major proportions. The initial holding statement was slow in arriving and while the Dreamworld CEO did front up to the media, clearly the parent company Ardent Leisure had miscalculated the scale of public outrage. Of course, the initial response of the Ardent CEO was bizarre to say the least.
Perhaps Ardent wanted to contain their public image damage to Dreamworld rather than the parent company. But as crises often do, the incident quickly escalated beyond the local brand to Ardent as well as the tourism industry of the Gold Coast more generally. Gold Coast’s other theme parks are particularly affected with the international press already making connections.
So where has Village Roadshow been while all this was going on, especially given that they own the remaining 3 theme parks on the Gold Coast; Sea World, Water World and Movie World?
Perhaps they think that keeping their heads down will make the problem go away, and perhaps they are right. Only time and the takings from their other Gold Coast theme parks will tell.
So what could they have done? Primarily, they could have shown more sympathy and been more vocal about their great record of safety. Or perhaps the executives are saying “but for the grace of God go I”. Maybe the incident at Seaworld is the reason they are so quiet when in September the Storm rollercoaster stalled causing the evacuation of all people on the ride in some dangerous wind conditions.
Perhaps the real impacts are still to come, including not only loss of revenue for both companies, but also the loss of few a board members to boot.
There is no doubt that theme park executives need to undergo exercise scenarios where fatalities and reputation are involved. If they have, then clearly their crisis communications plans need updating and the exercise needs to be run again, not just at Ardent but also Village Roadshow.
Finally, our thoughts and condolences are with the families and friends of this tragic accident's victims.