Destination Reputation Management: Is Mexico Safe?
By Daniel Edward Craig
Whether it’s terrorism in Mumbai, SARS in Toronto or political uprisings in the Middle East, health and safety concerns can cause serious harm to the local tourism industry, sometimes far greater than the risks involved.
To attract travelers, tourism businesses depend on the reputation of the region they’re in. If the destination’s reputation is compromised, everyone feels it.
But are businesses completely at the mercy of events beyond their control, and even beyond their region?
Social media has emerged as a powerful platform for countering media sensationalism and clearing up misconceptions by giving voice to regular citizens and business people on the ground.
In Mexico a surge in drug-cartel-related violence has resulted in a spate of negative media coverage and a travel warning in February from the U.S. State Department. While not to be taken lightly, the violence has been largely restricted to regions outside of popular tourist destinations. Still, many vacation planners are pondering the question, “Is Mexico safe?”
In Cancun, part of Mexico’s popular Riviera Maya resort destination, a small group has taken matters into its own hands. If you Google the question “Is Cancun safe?”, the first link that comes up provides their answer: Cancun Is Safe. Click the link and you’ll find a blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed dedicated to sharing articles, facts and dialogue concerning safety in Mexico from travel experts, locals, businesspeople and travelers alike.
In this condensed version of my Q&A session with the person driving this initiative, Camilo Olea discusses how he has used social media to provide “social proof” that his region is safe for travelers.
There is much we can learn about the fundamentals of destination reputation management from his approach, whether we operate an official tourism board, a business association or a private tourism group—not just at times of crisis but on a day-to-day basis.