|by John R. Hendrie, March 2006
A jewel in the Caribbean crown of memorable Destinations, Aruba delivers a wonderful Visitor Experience. You do feel very safe and welcome; the islanders are joyous, sparkling with enthusiasm and hospitality. Yet, Visitors still must balance perception with the reality.
Her name is on our minds – a most unfortunate incident – still unsolved after nine months – the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.
The case put Aruba on the International map – a lovely Caribbean island caught in the harsh spotlight of the carnivorous media machine and the public appetite for sensationalism.
The intrigue lingers in the background of your visit. When queried, everyone there has an opinion – from the Managing Director of a Resort complex, to your Taxi Cab driver, to your waitress, to a Tourism Official. They grieve for the loss, they are alarmed that the public really only knows the spin of questionable “journalists”, they are numbed that their Island, known for Hospitality, security and almost perfect weather, has suffered such ignominy.
Having just returned from a five day Holiday (a birthday gift from my sons), peeling, rested, revitalized, please allow me to present a perspective. Just as their license plate proclaims, Aruba is “One Happy Island”.
But, not to second guess Island Officials, I do think that Aruba misjudged the media attention and did not effectively present the efforts undertaken there to provide a full picture of their response to the still unfolding unfortunate situation. This is an extremely sensitive issue in Aruba, and the situation goes beyond normal “Damage Control” for Destinations beset with natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tsunamis. One incident, one individual continues to roil the once gentle waters.
I look at Johnson and Johnson with Tylenol and even Wendy’s with the chili ingredient and admire the approach the respective companies immediately implemented to address a crisis. They simply took the wind out of the media sails, comforted the public with their concern, attention and action, and managed the situation through effective, honest and timely communication.
Aruba, I am told, has done about as much as a Destination could do,
but we, the public, their potential Visitors, simply do not know that.
About 72% of their Visitor traffic comes from the US, which is besieged
and bombarded with news – print, on-line, television. And, we all
love a good story, the more lurid and unsettling the better.
Yellow journalism lives! Aruba misjudged our appetite, which
is fed daily with detail, intrigue, innuendo and possibilities. In
short, the Island did not effectively put into place a Crisis Management
Plan at the onset, and they certainly need something substantial in place
It is very easy to become embroiled in the debate on whether or not the Holloway case has been handled appropriately in a legal fashion. Beyond the media frenzy and the political sensibilities (US versus a sovereign entity and even the Alabama boycott), the net result is that the story has “legs”, and, Aruba, as a Destination, will continue to be affected. And, we, the Consumer, are left buffeted by the media wind, therefore, becoming very circumspect with a travel decision.
It is a shame Aruba was not at the forefront with a strategic Crisis Management focus. Millions are spent on Brand Marketing, but their reputation has been tarnished. A first rate publicist or Public Relations Firm should have been retained as the “story” rocketed. Catch up and changing perception are tough assignments! The response will be debated for years. I am still curious about Aruban effort to date.
I shall return to Aruba, and I shall pass along the good news, for our Visitor Experience was simply splendid.
The author, John Hendrie, believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to that memorable Visitor Experience. To learn more, please visit: www.hospitalityperformance.com
John R. Hendrie, CEO
|Also See:||Aruba Forging Ahead with a $230 million Investment in Tourism—the Island’s Largest Expansion and Renovation Campaign in Years / March 2006|