There aren’t words to describe the tremendous amount of devastation that the country of Haiti has endured since last week’s earthquake. As people around the world are responding to this crisis, one company in particular, Royal Caribbean, has been called into question about it continuing to send cruise-ship passengers to Labadee, Haiti, about 100 miles from the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince.
Labadee is a private destination in Haiti where Royal Caribbean cruise ships dock and send people on excursions. The company has been involved with tourism in Haiti for roughly 30 years and has spent a lot of time and effort working with the local government.
Royal Caribbean made the decision to continue docking ships in Labadee less than one week after the earthquake. Critics have been up in arms about why the cruise line would think it’s appropriate to send vacationers to a recently devastated area. I personally can see both sides of the argument. But, let’s talk PR strategy here, specifically, what Royal Caribbean has done correctly.
- It has been providing continued updates on its corporate blog by John Weis, associate vice president, private destinations, and by Adam Goldstein, president and CEO, discussing its reasoning for continuing to use Labadee as a port-of-call.
- Its maintained ongoing communications with third parties about Royal Caribbean’s relationship with Haiti and the Haitian government.
- It has made multiple statements and updates on its strategy and why ships are continuing to stop in Labadee. “There were a lot of discussions about this, but in the end, Labadee is critical to Haiti’s recovery and hundreds of people rely on Labadee for their livelihood.”
- It is showing the specific and tangible relief that Royal Caribbean is providing to the people of Haiti, including transporting food and water and a “commitment of $1 million toward the Haitian relief effort. This contribution will be spent supporting Food For The Poor and the Pan American Development Foundation,” according the Royal Caribbean Web site.
All in all, the strategy of keeping the dialogue open and communicating with the public has been successful. In every communications strategy, there will be critics whose positions will be swayed by open dialogue, but Royal Caribbean has done a good job of going after the neutral and positive audiences and keeping them from turning into opponents.
Perhaps most important in this situation is Royal Caribbean’s generous donations. Here’s to hoping that they are reaching those in need.
By Kate Corcoran