I love watching last minute, well-done PR campaigns. Sure, there is always an art to putting together a well-done marketing campaign. With a massive budget, a hardworking team and time to plan, anyone can pull it off. But when a PR team is able to turn a bad situation into something that has a major positive impact, it’s absolutely incredible. This is exactly what happened during Hurricane Irma.

One of Florida’s major economic staples is tourism, resulting in a $109 billion economic impact annually. Last year, over 113 million tourists visited the state.

Cruises and major theme parks are the bread and butter of the Sunshine State’s tourism industry—which is a major problem when a hurricane sweeps up the coast.

When Irma hit, Mickey Mouse was forced to shut the doors to Walt Disney World. Cruise ships began leaving the area for safety. Beaches became vacant. Suddenly, this welcoming tourist haven was barren.

Not only that, but tourism companies didn’t want to lose customers, stakeholders still had employees counting on paychecks and perishable food items had already been purchased.

That being said, in a short amount of time, businesses rose to the occasion, providing help to those in need. Here are a few last-minute (accidental) PR campaigns I’ve been following during this hurricane season:

Norwegian Cruise Line:
Norwegian led the charge, helping people take shelter before the hurricane hit Miami. They sent a boat to the Floridian city two days before the storm arrived. They allowed passengers whose flights were cancelled to re-board the ship, taking them to Cozumel, Mexico to wait out the storm while enjoying a free vacation. They also sent ships to the Virgin Islands to bring supplies and allow humanitarians to house on the boats.

Did Norwegian lose money? Yeah, of course. They had to cancel cruises and offer rescheduling, as well as 50 percent off another trip. Also, without money coming in, they donated resources and had to still pay their staff. That being said, did they gain lifetime customers? Definitely!

Other cruise lines followed suit, proving Norwegian had a top-notch approach to community and guest relations.

Royal Caribbean:
This cruise line also went above and beyond to help out during this crisis. They were able to help over 300 people evacuate St. Martins, sailing off to safer waters. In fact, the company has offered to send more ships to the islands to help with evacuation.

Disney World:
This family-friendly park closed for the sixth time in its almost 60-year history during Irma’s arrival. The park had also never closed for two consecutive days. The company had to turn this storm into an opportunity. Before closing, their restaurants sold boxed meals at reduced prices for families to take back to their hotels while taking shelter.

Although no one could go inside the park, Disney created experiences inside their resorts to help entertain families. They had ongoing crafts and activities, reduced price meals, character experiences, and free movies and games. Somehow, the park was able to keep the magic.

At the end of the day, all the best planning in the world can’t protect you from life’s curve balls.  We applaud these companies for their quick thinking genuine care for the community.

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