Thu. Oct 6th, 2022

Center Parcs et al: a right royal PR fiasco

Center Parcs announced last week that it would close its UK “villages” for the Queen’s funeral, “as a mark of our respect and to allow as many of our colleagues as possible to be part of this historic moment”.

Amazingly, no one anticipated the “huge backlash from angry holidaymakers” who faced being turfed out mid-stay, said Andrew Ellson in The Times. The inevitable U-turn rendered the situation farcical. At one point Center Parcs suggested guests could only stay on site if they remained “in their lodges”. This too was soon reversed.

“For all the horror and tragedy of death”, it can produce “unexpected moments of light relief”, said Marina Hyde in The Guardian. To that extent, we owe Center Parcs a debt. It was just “impossible” not to picture oneself in a “lodge-effect detention hut, cowering by the forest-mural feature wall as village guards toured the site”.

On Twitter, the wags excelled themselves. “Good luck removing guests from the parks,” wrote one. “You’ve trained them in archery, shooting, swimming, canoeing and swinging through the trees like apes. You’ve basically got five village-loads of ninjas to clear out.”

This fiasco was merely the most extreme example of a brand making a mess of its royal tribute, said Guy Kelly in The Daily Telegraph – or seeking, in the crassest of ways, to profit from them.

Center Parcs, which is owned by Brookfield Property Partners, will probably emerge unscathed, said Emma Jacobs in the FT: it confused customers, but didn’t commit the cardinal sin of insulting them. But, overall, the mass outbreak of corporate “virtue-signalling” ran counter to the Queen’s enduring example of “dignified restraint”. As one PR expert put it: “If you have a royal warrant, then it’s fine to put something out there. But otherwise, just shut up.”

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