The workload for those employed in travel or tourism PR consequently shifts up a gear. But because of the nature of travel, comms in this sector has two distinct elements. There is the proactive promotion of travel products – whether this is marketing an airline, a package holiday or a destination – and then there is the strategy employed when the holiday does not go according to plan.
Travel brands are only too aware that they are more likely to encounter a crisis than in most other sectors (apart, of course, from government and, more recently, banks).
In recent years we have seen the terrible tragedies of Madeleine McCann on a Mark Warner holiday and the two young children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning on a Thomas Cook-organised vacation. Last year there were crises affecting smaller holiday operators including a fire at a hotel in Cornwall and a coach crash in Ecuador.
Most of the big brands now have media-facing staff who are intensively trained in crisis situations. Virgin – a brand that has always placed heavy emphasis on PR – is well-known for its staff crisis-training programmes.
But this can be a challenge for smaller companies with fewer comms staff and thinner resources.
It was therefore an admirable piece of enterprise from travel insurance company Arnold Fisher and travel PR specialist Brighter to offer immediate crisis comms support to clients as part of a business insurance package (news, p4). It is also an acknowledgement that reputation is a business asset; an asset that can be expensively damaged if effective remedial action is not employed quickly.
If this proves successful, there is no reason why bigger business insurance companies couldn’t strike similar deals with other PR agencies, offering professional media support to their clients.
As a result, good crisis comms could become a business hygiene factor rather than a useful add-on.