I was surprised to read recently that less that 5% of Egypt’s economy is based on tourism. I’ve been there a number of times and I believe the number is probably higher, as thousands of Egyptians depend unofficially on business and tips from tourists. Regardless of the correct percentage, however, tourism represents an important part of the economy. More than one person I know has cancelled their plans to visit Egypt this year and I’m sure the same thing is happening in Africa, North Africa, the Gulf States and every other country in which the political situation is unstable.
Many of these countries spend a considerable amount of money marketing themselves as tourist destinations, literally turning their country into a brand. Egypt, of course, has been a required stop for world travelers for centuries and their marketing plays on that with the Tourism Authority’s recent “Egypt – where it all begins” marketing campaign. However, a brand is nothing more – and nothing less – than the market’s perception and the market now equates the Egypt brand with demonstrations and political upheaval. Though the changes appear to be pointing towards a more democratic government, it is doubtful whether most vacationers will choose to visit till they can feel assured of stability.
It will take an epic marketing damage control effort on the part of the Egyptian Tourist Authority to change those perceptions. But there are lessons to be learned from companies such as Johnson & Johnson, whose transparency and proactive information strategy saved Tylenol from a poisoning disaster. And lessons to be learned from BP, whose early misinformation chaos regarding the oil spill was only barely offset by their late campaign publicizing the company’s clean-up efforts.
Hopefully, any damage control you need to perform will not be on the same scale as these, but the same lessons apply. Get in front of the problem, tell your customers the truth and treat them with the respect your brand’s relationship with them deserves!
Tracey Nelson, Co-Founder, Principal
Maven Marketing Solutions