The industry has approved Sandals’ response to criticism from the celebrity Katie Price, although some warned it could backfire.
Price criticised the all-inclusive operator for “almost ruining her wedding”, while staying at Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort.
The former glamour model married her third husband, builder Kieran Hayler, at the resort, but in her column in The Sun newspaper complained about plastic sunbeds, and said the wedding tent looked “like it came out of B&Q”.
The operator has offered Price a full refund provided she does not return for a “future wedding or stay”.
Steve Dunne, executive chairman of Brighter Group, the travel PR and marketing specialist, said: “From an industry and PR point of view, this has had a massive thumbs-up. Sandals caught the mood and the world saw it for what it was.”
Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of The Brand Republic Group, said: “Not all publicity is good publicity, but in this case it probably is.”
But observers also said comments about a “future wedding” were “ill-advised and offhand”.
Advantage chief executive John McEwan added: “Giving her a refund and asking her not to return is perfectly legitimate, but to infer her marriage is temporary is a bit naughty.”
Gary Grieve, managing director of trade training organisation Capela Training, said: “It’s clever and funny but also risky. If you were planning a wedding and read this you might worry.”
Travel Designers managing director Nick Harding-McKay said it highlighted the importance of matching the client to the right hotel.
Sandals said it had been “overwhelmed” by the support it has received from the industry and the general public while the story had also generated “huge interest” in the Sandals brand.
Managing director Karl Thompson said: “The social media engagement with the story has been pretty incredible – information is digested and communicated at such a fast speed these days, there really is no room for error.
“Exceptional circumstances sometimes require exceptional actions and it has transpired that if you make a stand for what you think is right, people seem to respect that.
“We have a brand that we believe in, that stands for quality and we have a duty to protect our brand not just for ourselves but for the sake of our loyal customers.”
Thomson added that customers remained the resort operator’s priority. “I can assure agents that we will continue to do all we can to exceed their customer’s expectations.”
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