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Copyright 1999-2007
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Role of the Media in Promoting a
Culture of Peace through Tourism

Karen Hoffman
The Bradford Group

Panel Remarks

Public Relations Strategy For Overcoming Negative News And Images For Destinations And Stakeholders In Tourism

Overview: It is not uncommon to hear tourism officials complain about the media's constant coverage of negative events or happenings instead of the positive ongoing stories that are more often the norm within a destination. We all must recognize, however, that the news teams have an obligation to cover the news, which is usually bad news. In mo way am I defending the negative coverage….but that is the nature of the news…and one of the reasons why this panel is part of the summit program.

I would like to suggest a more positive and pro-active strategy for tourism officials in overcoming negative news and images for their destinations ..that also takes advantage of the many human interest stories that the media also seek to cover.

Public Relations Strategies to help overcome negative images

  • Communicate to the press and to the travel industry

The critical importance of a constant flow of honest communication and updates following an incident cannot be overemphasized. Don't try and hide or gloss over what has happened. Rather, issue statements of the steps being taken to rectify the situation. Hold a press briefing; issue statements with constant updates; be accessible to the press. Examples: Bombing in Mombassa, Kenya: Kenya Tourist Board issued statements as to what was being done to protect the tourist, as an example, Serena Hotels and Lodges, forwarded their official statements to suppliers. As a result, very few cancellations occurred.

  • Bring press and travel professionals on educational trips to see for themselves

Example: Following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Puerto Rico hosted a continuous flow of travel writers, news reporters and tour operators, to visit the island and see for themselves that everything was back to normal.

  • Promotional Tours of High Level Delegation to the tourism generating markets

Examples: Again, following Hurricane Hugo, Puerto Rico organized a ten market road show; Tanzania's Minister of Natural Resources and tourism came to the US immediately following the bombing of the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam in August 1997 to demonstrate that Tanzania was a safe destination; Indonesia/Bali seized the opportunity to sponsor an event at this Global Peace Through Tourism Summit, bringing dancers, the Peace Gong, and to bring the message and update of security measures that hopefully will assure the safety of tourists in Indonesia.

  • Turning the Negative To A Positive

Example: "The rebuild of the Dubrovnik Fund" was begun following the destruction of the historic city of Dubrovnik. This fund was created through the efforts of a unique partnership of public and private sectors to rebuild the city. The campaign in itself became a positive promotion of how the tourism industry rallied from all corners of the world to raise funds to rebuild the city.

  • Develop and Promote Positive News Stories…..and Pitch Them to the Press

Environmental, cultural and human interest stories all target the special interest editors and broadcast producers. Community based tourism success stories, mountain climbers who are disabled, and other people to people topics make valuable feature stories. Examples: Jamie Andrew, the Scottish Climber honored at this Summit; Eddie Bergman's Miracle Corners of the World and his community center in Arusha, Tanzania; Community based tourism projects of the African Wildlife Fund; Tourism Training Programs; Environment Conservation Efforts - Campaign to 'Keep Mt. Kilimanjaro Clean'.

  • Shift Tourism Focus

If there are problems in one area of a destination, shift the focus to other areas. Example: Israel: promote tourism to areas like Eilat, where there is relative quiet compared to Jerusalem, which normally is the focus. One cannot emphasize enough…the principle of positive public relations: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

International Institute for Peace Through Tourism