Hotel Online  Special Report

 Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation
and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes


By John Hendrie, September 2004

The world watched on television the dramatic devastation from a recent spate of hurricanes in the Southeastern US and the Caribbean.  The pictures and reporting were real and immediate; they were wrenching; and, they were memorable.

As Destination Markets assess the damages, and, in many cases, provide for basic needs at this point, your visitors await information, status and condition of the areas they wish to visit in the near future.  Obviously, your valued loyal guests need to be reassured.  But, the bulk of your business probably consists of the “light user”, the consumer who will not stop planning a vacation or travel but typically has little allegiance to a Destination Market; they will simply remove you from their “radar” and look elsewhere.  Clearly, Destination leadership has a huge public relations challenge, for, now, perception is the reality. 

I do not want to appear insensitive to those Destinations heavily damaged. Paradoxically, those who are “hunkering down” actually need to consider marketing investment, for your visitor is fickle, and you must be preemptive in your marketing assault. As you look at the present, you need to look at the future as well. How do you resurrect your Destination and promote that you are ready for business, fully, partially or not at all? You want to say that you are back and better than ever and here is why! Get your story out there.

Due to media coverage, Destinations must be honest and forthright with the “picture” they present.  One very good example of how to successfully address a “product” situation was how Johnson & Johnson managed their Tylenol dilemma.  They took ownership immediately, recognized the problem, told the consumer what they were going to do about the situation and maintained excellent communication – honest and timely – throughout the process.  As you may recall, their “damage control” was highly effective, and Tylenol soon regained its’ market share.

I believe that this approach should be a fundamental guideline to your Destination Marketing “mix”, and the message begins with your State/Country tourism voices.  Although the hurricanes may have bypassed or created minimal damage in certain Destination areas, your visitor only remembers Florida, or Barbados, or Jamaica.  Your governmental agencies must better define the stricken areas and point to their revitalization efforts.  Similarly, Destination Marketing Authorities (local or regional CVB’s, Chambers of Commerce, Hospitality or Lodging Associations) must be similarly judicious, representing their hospitality related businesses and their status in a cogent, honest fashion.  The hospitality community cannot misrepresent their product either, for the consumer “backlash” created by a less than satisfactory experience will be deadly, and reputation recovery will take years.  The key ingredient is effective communication.

There are several other methods you may wish to consider.  Establish Focus Groups of potential or past visitors and ascertain their concerns, provide answers and then market this effort.Your consumers in England and Argentina and those in Boston and Chicago may have different types of questions and expectations.

Reengage Travel Agents, bring them to your Destination; let them experience, first hand, your efforts.  There is nothing better than word of mouth appraisal, and this group has been marginalized for several years.  On-Line services should be tasked to partner in your efforts.  Also, there are many excellent consultants who can lay out a strategic plan for you.  Lastly, there are companies which certify your hospitality business performance and ability to deliver a quality, verifiable experience.

This is what it is all about: perception, and how to turn that perception around to your benefit, honestly.  Your consumer has seen over the past thirty days the havoc sustained by hurricanes.  They want to know what transpired at a particular location, what you are doing, how you look, what are the prospects?  And, you can deliver, for your visitor deserves no less.

By John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.

Also See: Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004

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