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Travel, Recreation and PR

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Tourism, with all, the name implies, is an immediate source of income to any country that can attract it. And the potential for wealth grows daily with the development of large capacity aircraft, more expensive hotels, and the high powered marketing of cheap tours on credit.

To Britain, France, West Germany, Spain and other established tourist Meccas, these days have been added the newly emerging nations. Not yet industrialized, they are quick to see that the tourist dollar is then one hope. For the tourist dollar multiplies when it is spent in a country. Economists note that the effect of tourist money on the gross national income of a country can amount to as much as four times the original tourist expenditure.

Since the presence or absence of travel and tourism can make or break a small country, it is easy to see why public relations counselors play a large part in national programs aimed at winning a greater share of the bonanza.

An interesting sidelight is that PR has only recently become important in the travel picture. Only a few years ago ninety five percent of the money spent to promote tourism designed mostly to expand travel in Europe and North America was paid out for advertising.

To show what has, and can be done by professional public relations counselors, here are four campaigns: British, Spanish, French and West German, the winner of dollars in this case being Britain.

Britain's brilliantly successful campaign centered around the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. Responding to that campaign, over half a million Americans crossed the Atlantic to honor "the founding father of the English language."

Other objectives of the campaign besides getting tourists to Britain were:

a.    to spread the tourist travel throughout the country

b.    to extend the season over a period of eight months or longer

Because of the difficulties that would be presented by an influx of tourists to Stratford on Avon, the British Travel Association worked hard to put across the countrywide aspect of the Shakespeare celebration.

The lead story in the April issue of Reader's Digest was the opening shot. It was one of twenty seven placed by British Travel. The five specialists in the public relations department placed more than 700 illustrated feature stones in leading newspapers (some of them half a page), and 1,866 radio and television programs (138 hours and 16 minutes of broadcast time); also hundreds of showings of Shakespeare Year films were arranged, and thousands of posters were put up.

"This will be a unique travel experience" was the theme of British Travel publicity.

April 23, Shakespeare's birthday, lute playing barmaids from a famous tavern in London were flown to the Plaza Hotel in New York to serve Elizabethan fare to members of the press and other invited preview guests.

Three thousand kits were supplied to women's clubs throughout America. These contained prepared talks, order forms for films and displays, and recipes for syllabub and maids of honor (Elizabethan punch and cakes). Twenty thousand teachers of English literature were contacted through a direct mailing, suggesting that a visit to Britain this year would be of value to them in their work.

Branch office managers of the British Travel Association traveled thousands of miles, courting travel agents, providing sales material, and going on television with a wax figure of Shakespeare so real that several chambermaids, coming on it in hotel bedrooms, almost fainted.

Shakespeare served Britain well. For the commemoration of his 400th anniversary not only helped the country to enjoy its best tourist season in history, but furthered British American friendship and understanding.

Other countries approach tourism in different ways, and with a different spirit. Spain chose to promote its cultural achievements, as Britain did. In the case of Spain there was a good reason for this emphasis on culture; it wanted the rest of the world to forget what a spokesman for Spanish PR refers to as "potentially negative political aspects of the country." (This means its form of government). Since politics was a sensitive area, Spain accentuated the positive, which is art, dance, music, foods and crafts.

Spain's outstanding program to increase tourism already at an all time high was far more ambitious and costly than Britain's. It was participation in the New York World's Fair. The Pavilion of Spain, termed by Life Magazine the "jewel of the fair" had no competition from Russia, France, England, Italy or Germany since none were represented. It cost $7,000,000, and its design was determined by a nationwide contest. A New York agency which already represented the Spanish National Tourist Office, received a contract to develop public relations and publicity for this giant new project.

Problems of communication, timing, custom and method of operation inevitably arise in dealings between two countries. The PR man's first job is to eliminate these difficulties. In this case the PR counselors selected as public relations chief, a food and wine expert who knew Spain through his work with one of her principal exports sherry. A motion picture and product specialist, fluent in Spanish, was made press manager. A man formerly with the financially successful Seattle World's Fair was named as press officer for the Pavilion.

Status public relations, discussed later, played a large part in the promotion of the Pavilion of Spain. Starting with a gala charity benefit dinner dance on opening night, society and fashion reporters, food and art experts played up the exports and treasures of Spain in endless columns and photographs. Sensible public relations procedures were used all the way through. For instance, at a time when many exhibits were being criticized for charging high prices, the Pavilion of Spain lowered its admission.

With the material they had to work with, getting publicity was the easiest part of the job for the agency. Public relations problems included dealing with demonstrations by Spanish exiles and offsetting American criticism of Spain's political scene. Every lead was followed up: the first Spanish week in New York's history was inaugurated; Florida's cooperation was enlisted through her Spanish background; the jewel collection of Salvador Dali was presented; sales campaigns for Spanish goods received nation wide promotion. The resultant effect on the trade and tourism of Spain were summed up by the Commissioner General as "fantastico."

Aspects of German culture have attracted millions of tourists, but an interesting public relations campaign relied on a modernized Pied Piper to attract the traveler.

The town of Hamelin in Germany, plagued by rats in 1284, once again found itself with a rat problem. There is nothing unusual about cities having a growing population of rats, but most cities prefer not to mention the problem. Hamelin did the opposite. Relying on its past for inspiration, it used rat control for a double barreled PR campaign that not only reemphasized the quaintness and long time history of the town, but established it as a thoroughly modern and aware place to visit.

Hamelin's income, gotten mostly from paper, leather, tobacco, sugar refining and shipbuilding, has been augmented by the tourist trade. The city managers, fearful of losing that trade in a flood of bad publicity, hired an international pest control organization which, in turn, hired London public relations consultants.

Ten thousand handbills were distributed to school children the children having been the stars of the 1284 rat control program. At a press conference for British and German newspaper people, the new program's director signed an elaborate parchment contract in the presence of the Pied Piper who played a modern day version of the haunting tune that once freed Hamelin of rats and children. Pictures were taken outside the Pied Piper's house as well as elsewhere and were sent to television and newsreel companies, picture editors, international news agencies and foreign correspondents. The full press release telling what Hamelin was doing about rat control as well as detailing the colorful re enactment of the Pied Piper story went to all of these, and also to national magazines and relevant trade journals. It was sent to provincial papers in Britain and to newspapers in fifteen countries.

This brilliantly and thoughtfully contrived campaign not only stilled all bad publicity, but drew coverage from the press, radio and TV on both sides of the ocean. There was no let up in PR efforts. One amusing follow up was the flying of a consignment of bread in the shape of rats from Hamelin to London to be sold at a Pied Piper's Ball in aid of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Interviews brought out the fact that, far from being a stunt, this Hamelin project was the start of a long term drive, not only to free the town from rats, but to show its civic pride and progressive outlook. This is a classic example of how public relations can recreate the past of a client to attract favorable attention to the present.

The American scene makes use of its past too in attracting visitors from home and overseas. Colonial Williamsburg, in fact, has suffered from an overdose of publicity. People have read so much about it that it has lost caste as a new and exciting place to visit. To correct this overexposure proved an unusual challenge to public relations.

It was decided that the best way to offset the public familiarity with Colonial Williamsburg was a series of advertisements to show people small things they didn't know about or had never noticed in Williamsburg. This illustrates how public relations and advertising can join forces in changing the image of a resort, a company, a project.

Voted the top resort award for black and white advertising in magazines for the year, the Colonial Williamsburg series changed the pace for resort PR and advertising. Instead of emphasizing the history or scenery or pretty girls, the ads sold "the reality of all the little things... the many insistent echoes of a history that makes itself felt, heard, seen... and lived." The "little things" were a stopper for a window shutter, a barrel for fine teas and a scroll.

This type of campaign would be wasted on the average resort or the average business. I describe it to show how public relations can get an unusual message across. It also serves to demonstrate the way in which management, the public relations counsel and the advertising agency can work together to stir up interest for a special purpose.

A major gas company, for instance, each year helps to turn the spotlight on the Auburn Shaker Festival in Kentucky where the Shakers, a strict group of simple religious people, established their way of life and their crafts in the nineteenth century.

There are no immediate benefits to the gas company. The influx of tourists each year to this area, whose natural gas supply is drawn from Texas gas pipelines, celebrates another era. But the company's role awakens the public to the fact that not only the Shakers, but the gas company were and are part of American history; and it contributes to the public acceptance which every company needs.
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