Scenic Group Hit by Cyber Attack; Company Rebuilt its Systems

Travel advisors and guests who've had issues with Scenic Group's service over the past few months received an update from Glen Moroney, the group's founder and executive chairman. Turns out the company had a Ransomware attack in February. 

The company refused to pay a ransom to the criminals who initiated the attack. Thus, Scenic lost all its data and systems, although it says that no guest information was compromised, according to a press statement released this week.  

So, Scenic Group has been rebuilding its systems, hiring more contact personnel and taken other steps. Moroney also sent an email to guests acknowledging the "inconvenience our service levels have caused you, our most important guests and assure you we take your comments seriously and we will be back to 'normal' soon."

February Cyber Attack

On February 20, Scenic Group's computer screens globally went blank, except for a simple message advising Scenic that all its core operating systems and data had been encrypted.

In other words, Moroney says: "We'd been "cyber-attacked" and after a few messages from the hackers a ransom demand was made." However, "I took the decision not to pay as I believe it just incentivizes these criminals to keep hacking other businesses."

Then, what should have been a relatively short—but painful, nonetheless—reboot of two or three weeks turned instead into a total system rebuild. Moroney says that's essentially completed now, but "we still have the odd 'bug' to sort" out. 

For travel advisors whose guests are concerned about whether their personal data was compromised, Moroney says this: "Very importantly, all guest data was secure with no leaks."

Communication Issues, Airline Woes

During this time that Scenic was rebuilding its total system, he acknowledges that "it was almost impossible to communicate as normal with our guests and industry partners. Timely cruise cancellations, document and flight issuance, as well as call center response times were all impacted very significantly."

As a result, Scenic has been dealing with a huge backlog while, at the same time, trying to employ additional staff to cope with the return to full operations. Adding to the issues was the challenge of COVID-19-related absenteeism from employees sick at home. 

Beyond all that, Moroney emphasizes that "some regions have experienced an unprecedented level of flight rescheduling and late flight cancellations—even on the day of departure—which once again adds a significant volume of urgent calls to the customer contact center."

Calling the last five months the most stressful in Scenic's 36-year-history, he tells guests: "I understand none of the above is your problem but I did want to share the reasons behind the challenges you face when dealing with us at present."

Scenic's Plan for Recovery 

Scenic Group has reconstructed its IT department with what Moroney describes as "a much stronger focus on security and recovery protocols." In addition, the company has employed a large number of additional reservations staff globally, but that also requires time for training. "We've also set up a dedicated support team to handle the administrative tasks for each reservation, so our contact center staff are more efficient," he says. 

The positive is that "our document issuance pre-departure is now nearing pre-cyber event timing," he notes. In addition, the average wait times for the customer contact center have improved dramatically. Moroney, however, adds that "we still have occasional blow outs when we get numerous flight schedule changes or large numbers of staff on sick leave." For example, one Scenic office recently dealt with 183 flights needing to be rescheduled for guests in one day. And that came on a day when 13 staffers were out on sick leave due to the flu or COVID-19.

Yet, despite 2022's challenges, he's "heartened with the very positive guest response to Emerald Azzurra and indeed Scenic Eclipse’s inaugural Mediterranean season, as well as return to operations for our European river cruise fleet." 

Moroney stresses to advisors and guests that the company is totally committed to overcoming these latest challenges, as it's done so over the many years: "Once again, I apologize for the inconvenience we've caused and assure you we will soon be back to normal." 

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