An uprising in early January toppled Tunisia's president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and caused most holidaymakers to flee the country, while on-going protests in Egypt against President Hosni Mubarak have led to evacuations of tourists from the country's major cities.
HB Portfolio, sister company of Hills Balfour, has the retained UK account for tourism in Egypt, while as recently as January Rooster was re-appointed by the Tunisian National Tourist Office.
HB Portfolio account director Julia Berg went on a number of regional radio stations to explain that key Egyptian tourist areas were unaffected.
She told PRWeek: ‘Our priority has been to get out accurate information – there is not a civil war going on in Egypt and the Red Sea resorts remain unaffected.’
Thomas Cook director of PR Bronwen Griffiths-Barrasso added: ‘We have been trying to put the locations in context. Cairo is vastly different to holiday resorts, which are 6/8 hours away and serviced by a completely different airport – the media has generally been very supportive.’
TUI UK, owner of the Thomson and First Choice holiday brands, said its priority had been getting information to customers and reassuring them via the media.
Christian Cull, director of comms for Thomson and First Choice, has undertaken various broadcast TV and radio interviews ‘proactively inform and reassure customers and make our position clear, keeping our communications as transparent as possible.’
Cull added: ‘With an ever changing situation in Egypt, we are continually monitoring the situation in resort with our colleagues who are there, and working closely with key partners and relevant Government bodies, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. ‘
Holidaymakers were more directly affected in Tunisia, where the mass protests were closer to resorts.
James Brooke, MD of Rooster (which also handles El Gouna and Taba Heights resorts in Egypt) said the agency currently had a ‘watching brief’ for Tunisia, keeping the client informed of coverage on a daily basis rather than active media outreach.
He added that when the agency does re-engage actively with the media it would approach a number of media supporters of the country who already know the destination well.
Berg said that when the political situation in Egypt was resolved the agency would use social and trade media and consumer incentives to get the message out that Egypt was open for business and its key attractions, such as its coral reef, remained unchanged.
Hill & Knowlton holds an inward investment brief for the Egyptian state, encouraging businesses to invest in the country.
Dave Robinson, CEO of H&K in the Middle East said the agency remained ‘actively engaged’, although logistical problems have inhibited communications with its client and Egypt-based staff.
He said: ‘I suspect that once things settle down politically the basic fundamentals that make Egypt an interesting country for foreign direct investment will remain. This kind of volatility is not unusual in emerging markets.’