When the brand is a destination in crisis

"Crisis in confidence." This is a phrase most often used in political and boardroom circles when stakeholders have lost confidence in leadership.

“Crisis in confidence.” This is a phrase most often used in political and boardroom circles when stakeholders have lost confidence in leadership.

But what about when the loss of confidence is in a brand? And, perhaps more complicating, when the brand is a city, country, or tourist destination?

In the travel and tourism industry, the cities, countries, and destinations that make up the “brands” can lose the confidence of their key stakeholders – travelers – over crises, such as violence and political unrest, that are often outside the control of the local tourism board or resort property.

We just witnessed a poignant reminder of this in Egypt, where the will of the people prevailed, but the tourism industry reported that the nation lost about $1.5 billion of tourism revenue, according to media reports.

Even in these types of crises, the basics tenants of strategic PR apply: communicate open and honestly, while on a parallel path remind people the benefits of the brand and why it still fulfills a need. As important as the message in this case is, the medium is about maintaining a dialogue with the traveling public through the channels they most frequently seek out information: travel blogs, destination websites, social networks.

In the case of resort destinations, we must continue to highlight the positives – location, adventure, natural beauty, and safety – while closely monitoring situations on the ground and working with government counterparts to adjust messaging to reflect current realities.

After all, the reasons people travel are often emotional versus rational. As long as we remember why someone desires to travel in the first place – the satisfaction of finding a great deal, the desire to get away and relax, the need to seek out that big adventure – we have to show how our brand story reflects these motivations.

With the end goal of using PR to sustain or increase tourism and improve the brand image of the city, country, or destination, smart highly targeted communications – before, during, and post crisis – can help maintain the confidence of the traveler and continue to help him or her make the smartest travel decisions.

Liz Van Lenten is EVP and group director of the Chicago consumer marketing practice at Ogilvy PR Worldwide. 

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