Cathay plans PR for Sars recovery

Hong Kong-based air carrier Cathay Pacific is in the closing stages of appointing its first PR agency in the UK for four years as it prepares to overcome the devastating effects of the Sars virus.

It has shortlisted three agencies for a consumer, B2B and crisis support brief, with a decision expected early next week.

Cathay UK marketing manager Paul Cruttenden said seven agencies were invited to tender, from travel specialists to large multinational agencies, which was ‘a broad range of candidates to test the market first’.

He said fees for the account would be discussed at appointment stage, but the brief would cover the UK and Ireland.

Cathay suffered its worst ever six-month loss in the first half of 2003 – £99m after taxes – caused by travellers avoiding Hong Kong and Asia due to Sars. Tourism and travel has since recovered to pre-virus levels.

‘Hong Kong has emerged quickly from Sars and is great value at the moment, something we will be drawing attention to,’ said Cruttenden.

He added: ‘We’re appointing now because we recognise the value of PR, and, although we’ve been strong on the trade side, over the past 36 months we haven’t had the profile we’d like with the travel audience.’

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