In January 2010, a cruise of the Royal Caribbean International company was on its way to Haiti when the worst earthquake in the history of that country occurred. More than 200,000 people died and the catastrophe led to political and social instability. Royal Caribbean decided not to interrupt the cruise and would continue to send all those who were already scheduled to the island.
In a short time, the international media exploded with reports criticizing the luxuries of the private beaches where Royal Caribbean cruise ships arrive , while the Haitians of Port-au-Prince suffered the consequences of the earthquake, they ran out of food and their homes were destroyed.
However, in less than a week, Royal Caribbean went from being conceived as a frivolous corporation to a humanitarian one committed to the Haitian community. Regarding communication in crisis management, the cruise line did the following:
- In the first place, in interviews given by the then President of Royal Caribbean Internationa he informed that explicitly the Haitian government had requested that cruises continue to be sent.
- On the other hand, the Haitian ambassador to the UN declared publicly that, given the economic difficulties that the earthquake would bring, the economic spill that the cruise ships leave on the island was still welcome.
- In addition, influential players in the cruise industry supported the decision of Royal Caribbean in the media arguing that, had stopped the cruises, it would have been left to the islanders who depend on tourism that arrives on cruise ships to survive, to their fate.
- As if that were not enough, people from the area where the cruise ships arrive came out in defense of Royal Caribbean .
- Likewise, Royal Caribbean announced that its cruise ships were carrying food and that they would donate resources to the humanitarian assistance efforts for the reconstruction of the damaged areas.
It is important to note that the ports where the cruise ships arrive are located away from the regions that suffered the earthquake, so there were no real bases to stop sending cruises. Simply, the crisis was unleashed because the media took bad actions that were actually helping the Haitian catastrophe.
It must be clear that risk management and crisis management is an issue that must be monitored in the long term. Decisions made by business organizations must always be linked to the risks that these could entail or to the risks they could mitigate. Also, this case exemplifies the importance of making decisions based on the values of the companies. All this is what really earned Royal Caribbean successfully handle this crisis.
From the eighties, Royal Caribbean envisioned a business opportunity on a beach that was very neglected but had the potential to serve its vacationers. Royal Caribbean established a relationship with the government of Haiti and guaranteed the payment of a tax for each tourist they took on their cruise ships to the island and a source of secure income for the local community.
Once the government granted Royal Caribbean the opportunity to settle on that beach, the company improved the infrastructure of the region not only for tourists, but for the communities of the region. Thus, the inhabitants of the area quickly developed affection for the company. On the other hand, the economic benefit that cruise ships leave in this port is essential for their survival. Thus, a good relationship between the Haitians and the company was achieved. Encourage good relations between business organizations and the communities where they work fundamentally to mitigate risks.
The previous effort to cultivate good relations with political and community actors was what earned Royal Caribbean a successful exit from this crisis.
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* The present entry was made with information from: Rice, C. and Zegart , A. (2018). Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity. New York: Hachette Book Group , pp. 119 – 125.