Myat Su Yin & John Walsh
A Review of the Appropriateness of Royal Caribbean’s Actions in Visiting Haiti after the 2010 Earthquake
Myat Su Yin
The docking of Royal Caribbean International (RCI) cruises on the Haitian Peninsula of Labadee three days after the devastating earthquake created heated discussions worldwide. The decision taken by RCI to continue with their original itinerary in light of the catastrophe was unprecedented, extraordinary and highly controversial in the history of tourism history. As technology enables more and more effective types of communications, the opinions surrounding their decision flew around the Internet and various media, questioning whether RCI did the right decision. RCI too was in a difficult situation as onboard passengers themselves were divided into two groups, as some refused to disembark during the Labadee visit while some took this an opportunity to offer their relief efforts to the people of Haiti. While many people were supportive of the relief effort side, some still labelled RCI’s move as insensitive, shameful or even disgusting. As media reports continued to diffuse before they proliferated into an organizational crisis, RCI took several communications initiatives and publicly addressed the concerns of people, revealing what RCI was thinking and how it planned to deal with the issues in the future. In the cruise line industry, cruise lines frequently stumble when faced with a crisis. On contrary, in the case of RCI, the company stepped up and was well prepared to head-off unwarranted criticism. From the crisis management point of view, even with the best preparation possible, in today’s world a crisis seems virtually guaranteed to occur. Although the earthquake did not occur at the Labadee coastline, along part of which RCI has exclusive as part of a leasing operation, RCI faced a crisis at the organizational level based on their decision to continue with cruises. This research paper studies which strategies were employed by RCI to defend their decision and reputation amid heated tensions and considers the effectiveness of their strategies. The research method applied is a qualitative case study approach, together with game theoretic, cost benefit and stakeholder analyses frameworks. The findings of this research can contribute to the crisis management as a whole while primarily focusing on its subsets of crisis communication and reputation management areas. Travels and tourism related businesses and destination management organizations can benefit from the lessons of the RCI case.