The role of PR shifted during the pandemic to a far more focused and targeted approach as they sought to engage audiences with controlled storytelling and imaginative concepts to entertain, inform and inspire future travelers. Here we highlight just a few of the many PR heroes.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, EVINS pivoted the media strategy for the acclaimed oceanfront luxury hotel, Halekulani, updating messaging and developing relevant, thoughtful pitch angles that would best resonate with the media and Halekulani’s target audience. Pitches ranged from sharing iconic recipes to health/wellness tips from SpaHalekulani.
EVINS secured coverage for Halekulani in Travel + Leisure’s article on How to Transform Your Home into a Hotel Fit for a Queen This Mother’s Day and in How to Virtually Travel First-Class to Hawaii – Without the Flight and Jet Lag in Forbes and were also able to secure editorial exposure in the Observer in How to Give your Home a Luxury Staycation Makeover Right Now.
To coincide with its media relations efforts on behalf of Halekulani, EVINS also developed a new content strategy to keep social fans and past and future guests engaged, entertained and enlightened with #HawaiiFromHome content while they sheltered in place. Content examples included a new wellness tips series featuring advice from the spa, Zoom backgrounds, curated Spotify playlists, and fan-favorite food and cocktail recipes.
At the onset of the pandemic, Karen S. Whitt, VP of Marketing for The Hartling Group (including The Shore Club Long Bay Beach, The Palms Turks & Caicos, and The Sands at Grace Bay) and longtime executive member of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, became a leader in transparent communication and problem-solving in the Caribbean. When the region closed down to tourists, The Hartling Group moved quickly to mitigate the effect on their team members as well as prepare the resorts for the future of leisure and group travel.
They introduced enhanced sanitizing measures across the board – new protocols in housekeeping as well as cleanliness in high-touch places across the resort. They were leaders in social distancing with staff at the early stages of the pandemic, implementing “Heartful Hartling Hospitality” where team members are committed to delivering a memorable welcome with their usual great smiles and using a gesture of hands to their hearts as the way of welcoming guests. Food and beverage operations shifted to enhanced room service and small group options to minimize contact. In addition to the action and on-site changes, the approach of showcasing Karen as a voice for the region, her sharing these updates in real-time and serving as a communications leader to keep future travelers educated and informed on what they could expect when borders reopened, was instrumental in future success.
With coverage in places like CNBC, The Chicago Tribune, and over 50 newspapers in the US, Karen was a sought-after resource for how to book a Caribbean vacation in this day and age. And when travel restrictions were lifted the resorts saw an immediate boost in inquiries and bookings. At the start of 2021, The Shore Club had multiple full property group buyouts, showing that groups and guests were ready to have this experience again, and were confident in what the resort would deliver. Occupancy has been exceptional, particularly in the summer which is typically low-season, as travelers are making up for lost time. The upcoming Thanksgiving and festive season are also seeing record bookings.
As an exclusive offering to clients deciding their next steps during the uncertain times of the summer 2020 pandemic, JPR produced a webinar titled, The Future and Now of Safe Hospitality. With panelists from Blue Canary Solutions, Hersha Hotels, and Resorts, and the Independent Lodging Congress, webinar topics focused on 1) creating a culture of safety for employees and guests, 2) today’s top must-do’s on-site, and 3) making a safe environment everlasting. A real-time Q&A with these hospitality experts rounded out the agenda. JPR had more than 80 registrants sign up to attend, and shared a recorded link with media and clients after the event via the agency’s monthly newsletter, Priority Status: Window Seat.
To help the recovery of tourism, JPR helped devise creative initiatives to help clients adapt to trends in the space like working remote, extended stays, outdoor programming (especially on the F&B front), etc. They not only needed to guide their clients on trends but had to put creative behind it so these properties were staying relevant and adapting to what travelers of the now were seeking.
Some of the successful programs developed over the past year included LEARNING by Eden Roc, as demand increased for extended stays and educational experiences. JPR created packages designed for different family needs with work-from-hotel experience for parents, paired with extensive education and skill-focused programming for children, like Spanish and piano lessons. The Children’s Concierge was developed as part of the LEARNING package to assist children as they attend their virtual classes.
To bring virtual educational programming to Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, the property partnered with trusted national tutoring service, TakeLessons, to offer hand-selected, qualified USA-based instructors and tutors in over 300+ academic and enrichment subjects. Guests worked with their Personal Concierge to arrange a virtual meeting with a dedicated TakeLessons Education Guide to discuss student needs and goals, and develop a custom program prior to their stay. Educational programs began on property and could continue once guests return home by working with the TakeLessons team to expand sessions beyond the resort.
As privacy is the new luxury, the property partnered with Schubach Aviation, a Southern California based private jet charter and aircraft management service, to offer the Private Passport to Pedregal package which includes a roundtrip flight for 4-8 people, luxury airport transfers, seven-night stay in a Two Bedroom Oceanview Villa, daily breakfast, and more.
In July 2020 while the Rancho La Puerta was still closed due to the pandemic, JPR launched the announcement of the property’s new Residences set to debut in summer 2023. With COVID-19, we identified second home residences and private travel as a major trend in travel and strategically positioned and pitched The Residences to the media as a place to live. Between both the internal and external campaigns, beyond press coverage, this led to hundreds of leads on the homes and the deposits received so far to reserve a Residence at Rancho La Puerta have exceeded their expectations.
To keep travelers inspired and community spirits high during the COVID-19 travel freeze, JPR got creative with the Bobby Hotel and brought a touch of Nashville into homes nationwide. Bobby’s Stage: #KeepItSpinnin’ was at the forefront of the industry’s virtual hospitality movement as a virtual concert series they concepted and launched. The results? 65+ minutes of custom music on the @bobbyhotel channels from a dozen critically-acclaimed local musicians; 13k+ video plays on Bobby’s social channels; 12 press hits.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, when travel editors sought to update readers with the latest protocols and changes in their favorite destinations, CIIC was challenged with generating future interest in the Mexican Caribbean State of Quintana Roo and confidence in travel while addressing the global pandemic.
During the first week of lockdowns in the U.S in March 2020 and anticipating an impact in the travel industry, CIIC developed a recovery plan highlighting an overview of the situation, market brief, media initiatives, and a strategy to manage the crisis for the destinations within the Mexican Caribbean. Beyond ensuring a message of security, safety, and swift management of the crisis, they kicked off their COVID-19 strategy by surveying their hotel contacts and destination partners and creating a connection with consumers through virtual activities like cooking classes, cocktail recipes, DIY spa treatments, and other fun initiatives that travelers could do from home to keep the Mexican Caribbean vacation spirit alive.
Given that they would no longer be able to host media visits, deskside, or group press trips for the foreseeable future, they planned virtual media briefings/press conferences, and speaking opportunities to detail health & safety procedures, current tourism numbers, and other important updates to our media contacts.
CIIC tapped into the rising popularity of channels like Zoom, Instagram Live, and Podcasts to launch a revamped Thought Leadership for the Tourism Board, securing panels with niche audiences such as the international women’s community Wanderful, and sustainable travel platform Kind Traveler.
Results: Total Placements +127, Total Circulation/Impressions 272 million and Total Estimated Editorial Value $887,000
When the hospitality industry was decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, MMGY NJF knew their agency must play a lead role in helping the travel and hospitality industry through recovery. Their entire team came together to think of creative ways they could have a positive and swift impact.
MMGY NJF partnered with the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) to develop a program that would unite the hospitality industry and offer a collective charitable response, providing immediate funds to hotels, plus a much-deserved respite in the future for those who were putting their lives on the line to care for the sick. In less than one month, we launched Buy One, Give One, a program that incentivized consumers to buy future travel with special offers ranging from discounted stays to gift cards to loyalty points. In return for these travel purchases, the 40 plus participating hospitality brands and hotels agreed to give back by donating room nights, gift cards, or loyalty points to organizations, including the American Nurses Association and NewYork-Presbyterian, as a “thank you” to healthcare and frontline workers.
MMGY NJF focused PR and marketing efforts primarily on tapping resilient travelers and members of hotels’ loyalty programs who would be the first to travel as restrictions were lifted. As a result of the program, 65,000 room nights were purchased and 8,385 room nights were donated.