Opinion: Hotels suffer most in the swine flu PR storm

Opinion: Hotels suffer most in the swine flu PR storm

Danny Rogers, editor, PR WeekWhile destinations generally have massive PR resources to overcome crises, individual hotels and resorts can struggle.

Stories about swine flu are decimating the bookings for hotels across Mexico, many of which are Spanish-owned, such as the RIU group.

But while the hotels may not be directly affected by the virus, they will find it difficult to be heard in the media furore because they do not have big PR operations.

It is a common problem. Another Spanish hotel brand La Manga Club is also suffering unfairly from media reporting. This stems back to news that LMC had entered 'voluntary insolvency'. On November 24 2008, The Times ran a headline: 'La Manga Club goes bust in Spain'.

What in fact happened was that LMC restructured its financial arrangements and continued to trade well, even if revenues are slightly down due to the recession.

"People in the UK think we've gone bust," said LMC director of tennis and leisure Lorenzo Martinez.

Mexico-based hotels and LMC share the same PR challenge: to reassure potential customers that it is business as usual.

But while the RIU hotels across the Atlantic, will clearly have to wait until the virus subsides, in LMC's case, it simply needs to point out its unique selling points.

With 28 mainly clay tennis courts, LMC is the pre-eminent tennis experience in Europe. It also has an eight-pitch professional football centre. LMC still retains its 'villagey' appeal in many parts and could be a very attractive option for many British families if marketed well.

Although crisis-hit hotels do not have major PR resources of their own, they can be smart and use 'affinity' marketing with business partners. In the case of RIU, it could seek help from the Mexican tourist board. And in LMC's case it should link up with the excellent Monarch airline, which flies into Murcia.


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