Simultaneous strife currently strains two countries on almost opposite sides of the world. In Mexico, the tragic toll from drug cartel violence took a sad turn recently when an American consulate worker and her husband were killed in an ambush in Juárez. In Thailand, nearly 100,000 protestors supporting ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been rallying for days against the current government.
A world apart, but the burdens are the same, socially and most certainly economically. The violence in Mexico has caused tremendous job loss and a 7% economic contraction last year alone. Thailand is barely getting over the hangover of its last round of political instability, when mass protests forced its international airport closed and stranded thousands of travelers for days.
Now, both countries are highly popular holiday destinations (#8 for Mexico and #17 for Thailand, globally), but these states of affairs are hardly welcoming to vacationers. So pretend you run the communications arm for the nation. You need to keep commerce flowing, and you don’t want foreigners scared to visit. Therefore, consider these public relations tactics:
• Explain the truth – people often simply want to know just that. What does your government’s official website say? How about your embassy and consulate websites globally? Any statement placed on these sites would be picked up by the press immediately. As with most highly-charged media narratives, the truth is often far more complicated than what’s actually broadcast. Travelers hate to guess what’s going to happen next when planning trips to exotic destinations, so give them the honest play-by-play, and if things aren’t so bad in certain destinations then let them know.
• Make it “official” via social media. It goes without saying that Facebook, Twitter and other social media can go a long way to amplifying what your official government sites are saying.
• Be prepared for the worst. Even if your government’s honest explanation of the situation on the ground helps alleviate some concerns, you have no way of knowing what may come next. (Um, hepatitis, anyone?) Therefore, keep your eyes on the ball and make sure to have planned responses and statements ready.
• When things improve, make sure people know. Everyone likes to hear about improvements and success. When your country gets a situation under control make sure to publicize the improvements to help build confidence.