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Expedia is now booking hotels in Cuba – New York Post

Expedia Inc. issued a press release announcing its travel and booking websites will now offer hotel rooms in Cuba. In addition to the New York Post, the release generated coverage on Fox News, Reuters and Travel Weekly, among other publications.

This release garnered a good amount of publicity despite the relatively small number of tourists who visit the country and the fact that Expedia was beat to the Cuban market by nearly a dozen U.S. airlines and cruise operators. Let’s explore what the press release did well and where it could have improved.

What Works:
  • Strong News Hook: Expedia highlighted that Cuba has become a “hot destination” for U.S. travelers, emphasizing the new trend of Americans traveling to the Caribbean nation. The release included the regulations that U.S. travelers need to follow to legally visit Cuba.
  • Ready-to-Use Quotes: Fox News used verbatim the quotes from both Expedia and supplier Barcelo Hotel. The quote from Barcelo Hotel also showed that Expedia has lined up a key local hotel partner.
  • Historical Imagery:  People often travel to visit historical sites and this release reminded tourists of Ernest Hemingway, as well as the “colorful and historic streets of Havana” and “the cobbled colonial town of Trinidad.” The release helps paint a picture for news outlets.
What Doesn’t Work:
  • Data Sourcing: The release’s footnote cited for its 4 million tourists, and that outlet cited Cuba’s tourism ministry. The release lost credibility by not citing the original or primary source for this data. How can the media vet this data or know its validity? The release also missed that Cuba had a “record” number of tourists last year.
  • Lack of Background and Context: The release could have added more background on the trend: When did U.S. travelers begin returning to Cuba? What caused the change? This would have given the release more substance and given Expedia’s news some context. The release also missed a great data point that Travel Weekly added in its article: has 482 hotels with prices ranging from $75 to $300 a night in Cuba.
  • Missed Superlative: Expedia mentioned that it’s “one of the first U.S. companies to offer bookings in Cuba.” And the headline says it “Opens Cuba Hotel Market.” We know that U.S. airlines and cruise ship operators have been bringing tourists to Cuba for about six months, but have other online booking companies already been selling hotel rooms? There may have been an opportunity to play up a “first” more clearly.
  • Lack of Imagery: The release also missed an opportunity to provide photos or videos of the beautiful Caribbean island nation, such as one of the Hemingway sites or a shot of the streets of Havana. They could have also included an image of one of their partner hotels in Cuba.
What We’ve Learned: Once-Forbidden Fruit Attracts Media

While Expedia’s press release isn’t perfect, the online booking company attracted a fair amount of media coverage by providing a bite at the once-forbidden fruit of Cuba. Expedia teases the media that the company is part of a bigger trend story and even implies that it might be on the cutting edge by saying it “Opens Cuba Hotel Market” in the headline. They could have done better at spelling out the possible superlatives, and offering up some historical background and context that shows how big of a deal their announcement is.

Expedia took a standard marketing announcement and added some nice touches to grab the media’s attention. But they missed some opportunities to make it easy for the media to run their story.

Check out Expedia’s press release here and let me know in the comments section below why you think it was so effective and what lessons you will likely apply in your next press release.

Alex Armitage is co-founder and CEO of Publiqly, whose Workflows help small and mid-sized companies write press releases that journalists and bloggers can’t ignore. Were you forwarded this post? Sign up to receive our weekly press release lessons directly in your inbox.

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