There is an interesting article in AdAge.com about the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s decision to continue to make a scheduled stop at a private resort in Labadee, Haiti. It’s a pretty strong article with a great deal of criticism from PR pros. As I was reading it, I was wondering where the other side was…there are no quotes from PR pros saying that they “get” why Royal Caribbean made the decision to continue to make stops in Labadee.
As I read the piece, I was thinking that I must not be reading this article right because I would have advised this cruise line to do exactly what they have done (I would have also prepared them to take some criticism about it and to be ready to solidly respond to critics with their rationale).
I was somewhat relived when I read past the article and got to the comments on this piece. Here, most commenters believe that the cruise line did the right thing. RCL has made a $1 million contribution to the relief fund, is donating 100% of its net revenue from cruise ship visits to Haiti; and using its vessels to drop off food, water, lounge chairs and beach furniture.
I see the value in what Royal Caribbean is doing; they are continuing to stop at Labadee, bringing much needed revenue to the people that work in this port. I am not sure what the value would have been to the cruise line or to the people that depend on the money they make from tourism if the cruise line had put this stop on hold. I think the cruise line is taking a lot of criticism from PR pros about the “optics” of this decision, rather than about the reality of it. I think it took some serious thought and courage for Royal Caribbean to make this decision.
Some of the critics are right, if a media outlet ran a photo of a group of predominantly American tourists frolicking on a beach just 60 miles from the earthquake zone in Haiti and put it up against a photo of the devastation, it would look awful. But what would the point in comparing those two be? Drama? Emotional conflict? Sensationalizing the situation?
In the AdAge piece, it talks about the damage to the Royal Caribbean brand from these photos. I did a quick search online and I can’t find any of these photos.
I don’t think Royal Caribbean made this decision lightly and I think that they should be applauded for the courage of their convictions. It would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone who lives and works in Labadee. What do they think of the ship continuing to bring tourists to this port?