Campaigns: Travel and tourism

Tourism in Kenya survives violence

CampaignBack to Kenya – A Campaign of Reassurance
ClientKenya Tourist Board
PR teamHills Balfour Synergy
TimescaleDecember 2007 - May 2008
Budgetc. £25,000

Kenya has always been regarded as one of Africa’s more stable countries, and has maintained a thriving tourist industry as a result. By the end of 2007 Kenya had enjoyed the most successful tourism year in its history with 204,644 tourist arrivals from the UK market alone, the largest international source market for the destination.

But when, in December 2007, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki beat hotly tipped rival Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic movement in the elections, accusations of ballot rigging started to fly. This quickly escalated from protest marches into full-blown inter-tribal violence, and the normally peaceful Kenya was suddenly faced with a nationwide rampage of killings and lootings.

It took two months for ex-UN head Kofi Annan to broker a power-sharing agreement between President Kibaki and Odinga, by which time the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) had issued a travel advisory warning, and thousands of British tourists had cancelled holidays.


To combat the negative press surrounding the violence in the country following the elections in December 2007

To lobby the FCO to lift its travel advisory against ‘all non-essential travel’

To relay the reassurance message to both trade and consumers that Kenya is safe and that the tourism industry is back on track.

Strategy and plan

When the violence erupted, crisis calls and meetings were held with the UK team, which is responsible for the crisis management for all Kenya Tourist Board offices worldwide.

It was agreed that daily updates would be sent to the travel trade media, the consumer media currently covering the story in Kenya, and the consumer travel press.

Hills Balfour Synergy (HBS) knew once the situation had calmed down, the media could help it promote late availability deals and kick-start tourism bookings, so journalists needed to have as much information as possible.

The three-stage campaign focused on the following key areas: combat the negative press coverage on the news pages; educate and reassure official bodies such as FCO and Association of British Travel Agents that Kenya was safe and open for tourism; and transfer the negative press coverage from the news pages to positive coverage in the travel and lifestyle pages.

Once the trouble had died down, a travel trade and media forum was staged to publicise the tourism recovery programme, and a trip for 220 journalists was planned for April. This was followed by a three-day ‘reassurance mission’ to the UK for the newly appointed Kenyan minister of tourism in May.
HBS also worked with Virgin Atlantic on a ‘Back to Kenya’ media visit for 20 UK journalists, hosted by Sir Richard Branson.

Measurement and evaluation

More than 198 print and broadcast pieces appeared on broadcast platforms such as BBC and LBC, national newspapers such as the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror, and key trade publications Travel Trade Gazette and Travel Weekly.

More than 100 late availability releases had appeared in late deal columns by the end of April, with 51 in April alone.

Negative stories on Kenya in UK news pages are now almost non-existent and every national newspaper in the UK has carried at least one positive feature on the destination on their travel or feature pages.


The FCO travel advisory was lifted in just over two weeks, scheduled airlines continued flying throughout the period and the first charter flights returned by May.

After the advisory was lifted, UK tourists begin to return to Kenya. Although figures were still down year-on-year, they recovered from a 64 per cent drop in February to a 47 per cent drop in May.

Alex Black


Second Opinion

James Brooke
MD, Rooster PR

The near total collapse of the tourism industry in Kenya following the post-election violence in December 2007 was arguably the most high-profile tourism story of the past year.

Faced with the FCO travel advisory and the prospect of massive job losses, this campaign effectively executed all the classic elements of a crisis management plan for a tourist board. Namely, providing the media with the correct facts on a daily basis; supporting the positive facts by facilitating first-hand experience for the media as soon as it is safe to do so; and issuing price incentives to drive a quick return of bookings.

Thankfully, the primary tourist areas in Kenya were unaffected by the violence. This became a key message of the reassurance campaign and helped secure positive coverage in the travel and lifestyle press.

Where the campaign really gathered momentum was in the partnership with Virgin Atlantic Airways and Richard Branson’s personal involvement. The power of the Virgin brand and the trusted Branson name added important weight.

Having worked on crises for the likes of Egypt (Dahab Terrorist bombings in April 2006) and the Cayman Islands (Hurricane Ivan in September 2004) myself, I know the levels of co-ordination work in relation to the budget would have been significant.

Tourism to Kenya is bouncing back and, no doubt, the reassurance campaign and support by Kenya’s tourism partners in the UK and around the world has played a central role.

2/ food and drink

South Ken cupcakes a delicious success

Campaign Creation of the cupcake phenomenon in the UK
Client Hummingbird Bakery
PR team Gabrielle Shaw Comms
Timescale May 2007 - July 2008
Budget £36,000

Tarek Malouf, owner of trendy bakery Hummingbird, brought in Gabrielle Shaw Communications (GSC) to drum up trade for his new South Kensington store. As the Sex and the City film was about to be released in the UK, the team decided to make the most of the series’ protagonists’ penchant for cupcakes.


To drive consumers to visit the Hummingbird Bakery

To drive awareness of the delivery service and customised cake orders.

Strategy and plan

First, Malouf created a range of limited edition ‘South Ken inspired’ cupcakes. Then GSC teamed up with celeb nightspot Boujis and held a launch party at the South Kensington bakery. GSC also organised a ‘Design a cupcake’ competition and embarked on a media relations and sponsorship campaign.

Measurement and evaluation

The cupcakes and the bakery appeared in a huge number of national titles, including Vogue, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Observer, Eve, London Lite, Mail on Sunday, Independent Magazine, Sunday Times Style and BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme.


The two bakeries currently sell 20,000 cupcakes per week between them and are looking to open a third bakery in the next year.

3/ healthcare

Alzheimer’s drug prepares ground

Campaign Unveiling of Alzheimer’s drug trial data
Client TauRx Therapeutics
PR team Edelman and the University of Aberdeen
Timescale July 2008
Budget Undisclosed but estimated to be around £30,000

Claude Wischik, professor of mental science at the University of Aberdeen and chair of TauRx Therapeutics, presented findings of a phase II drug trial that saw an 81 per cent slowing of the progression of Alzheimer’s. The drug could be available by 2012, so a global Edelman team was hired to work alongside the university’s in-house PR team.


To secure global media coverage

To show that more research is needed before the drug can become available.

Strategy and plan

Edelman’s UK unit worked with Professor Wischik to develop central messaging and pre-briefing programmes.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign triggered more than 1,000 articles globally in the first 48 hours and more than a quarter of a million blog posts. The story led BBC1’s Ten o’Clock News and ITV News at Ten. It was the front page splash in the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, with coverage in nearly all the nationals.


As well as global coverage, different story strands were picked up which initiated a debate about benefits of using this approach to the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

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