Travel and leisure marketing in a natural disaster: Orbitz and the Gulf Oil spill.

There are two ways a travel marketer can respond to a natural disaster. During the gulf oil crisis, Orbitz showed us the right way.

As crisis after crisis unfolds across the globe, many travel and leisure marketers are asking, “Is it appropriate to keep marketing during times like this?”

During the Gulf Oil Crisis, the Orbitz “Open Beach” guarantee helped save Florida’s Gulf Coast.

At that time, Florida hotel rooms were worth as much as the oil gushing out of the BP wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Just as everything seemed hopeless, a massive relief effort was announced to protect the state’s hotels and beaches.

But it wasn’t BP or the U.S. Government that came to the rescue.  It was the online travel booking site Orbitz.

In a matter of days, Orbitz put together a powerful “Open Beach Guarantee” with  123 hotels in 16 cities up and down Florida’s Gulf Coast.

This announcement appeared on Orbitz' website at the height of the crisis.

How the guarantee worked.

If you booked hotel reservations that weren’t part of a package deal in any of those hotels, and the government closed a beach within twenty miles of that hotel, you got a full refund.

On its website Orbitz listed the hotels offering this deal, the cities they were in, and even a daily visual forecast of the projected trajectory of the oil spill.

There was nothing pious or self-serving in this announcement.

In a press release that accompanied the announcement, Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt refused to get pious.

“It doesn’t really help us if we send someone to a beach with oil,” he said. “The travel industry has been dramatically impacted by this, and our role is to help our partner hotels.”

What leisure marketers can learn from Orbitz’ response to this crisis.

With this one simple act,  Orbitz demonstrated the kind of chutzpah that every marketer of a travel or leisure brand should strive to develop.

They showed us that there is a way for travel brands to protect their profitability and integrity during a crisis.

And they offered a clear path for hospitality brands around the globe who have been affected by natural disaster or crises.

Has your travel brand been affected by events that affected your very existence?

How have you continued to market during times like these? How did you get through your crisis?

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4 Responses to Travel and leisure marketing in a natural disaster: Orbitz and the Gulf Oil spill.

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