NTA and Edelman coach tourism pros through oil spill disaster

The National Tour Association (NTA) and Edelman, an independent public relations firm, recently offered free counsel on crisis management and media relations to more than 100 tourism professionals in Biloxi, MS, and Houma, LA, and others impacted by the oil spill on the Gulf Coast.

“The people in these areas have been through so much — Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Rita and Gustav —and now the aftermath of the oil spill,” says NTA president Lisa Simon. “Our purpose is to help change the perception that the Gulf Coast is closed. Not to minimize the seriousness of the oil spill, but its impact on the beaches is not as widespread as it appears.

We want to make sure visitors and members of the travel trade receive complete and accurate information about all there is to do in the region. The Gulf Coast is open for business.”

The team from Edelman presented interactive workshops on crisis management, traditional media relations and digital media, helping attendees leave with ideas to sell their destinations.

“All along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast, tourism professionals have stories to share about their culture and heritage, gaming and nature-based tourism, as well as some incredible culinary experiences,” says Cathleen Johnson, Edelman tourism executive vice president. “We were here to draw out these ideas and help attendees move through this crisis using media and social media to reach travelers everywhere.”

The seminar in Biloxi, MS was the first in the series with others planned for Houma, LA and Gulf Shores and Pensacola, FL.

Simon cited public perspective as the biggest  problem for the tourism and hospitality industries, and is asking tour operators from her association to bring groups down to the Coast to see the reality of the situation, and to generate business in the area.

Perception versus reality has become the biggest challenge, according to Johnson.

The NTA says making connections with travel agencies and trade associations, and varying marketing avenues through marketing, trade publications and social media are good ways to drum up business for the Coast.

Simon also encouraged people to contact their local elected officials and ask them to support the Travel Regional Investment Partnership Act, proposed legislation supporting domestic tourism. Edelman spoke about how people think in a crisis, how to use crisis-management best practices, how to interact with traditional media outlets and how to use new media.

According to attendees, a great number of businesses are folding and for business people to receive this type of guidance is time well spent, learning more creative ways to market the area not just to tourists but to residents as well.

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