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Costa battles media onslaught, Concordia scams

Foschi - 'We have been annihilated in the media'
One month after Costa Concordia hit the rocks off the island of Giglio, Costa Crociere is actively fighting to dampen the groundswell in the Italian media which is questioning the future of the Costa brand. The company is also giving notice it will take legal action to protect its reputation and that of its executives, including battling scams or attempts at profiteering from the Costa Concordia tragedy.

On Friday Costa said it will lodge a complaint about a woman who alleged she suffered a miscarriage as a result of the ship’s grounding, as chronicled in the Italian television program ‘Striscia la Notizia.’ The cruise operator said neither the woman nor her husband was on the passenger list.

During several broadcasts this week, ‘Striscia la Notizia’ discussed the case of a couple of self-styled survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck and their lawyer. They have appeared on various television programs and their story has received substantial coverage on websites, in newspapers and in news agency reports in Italy and abroad.

Through their lawyer the couple sought €1m in damages from Costa. The woman was purportedly five months' pregnant when she went on the cruise and miscarried several days after escaping the stranded ship off the coast of Giglio.

‘Striscia la Notizia’ investigated the claims and discovered the whole story was fabricated. The couple were using false identities and neither of them had been on board when the ship went down.

The incident follows a first admission of the disaster’s potential impact on one of the cruise industry’s, and Italy’s, most trusted brands, when Costa chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi told Turin daily newspaper La Stampa early his week that bookings were running 35% below the same period last year.

He added that if ‘Costa Crociere does not go bust as a company, it could yet go bust as a brand. We have been annihilated in the media. Our brand has been massacred,’ he told La Stampa.

Expanding on Foschi’s comments, the company said in a statement to Seatrade Insider that he was replying to a question about the possible failure of the company. ‘He actually replied that, although the company is financially very strong and the company will not go bankrupt, there is no certainty about the brand.

‘This declaration has been caused by the enormous attack of the mass media on Costa Crociere, for the most part unfair and unverified,’ the statement went on. ‘However, it is necessary to clarify that this is a remote possibility because it is our intention to work hard to do everything in our power to save the brand and to restore our credibility.’

The cruise operator has had a long reputation as a trusted blue-chip operator, particularly in Italy.

Last year Costa was ranked ninth out of 120 major corporations in a Reputation Institute/Doxa study of the companies with the best reputation in Italy, behind only such international giants as Ferrero and BMW, Barilla and Volkswagen, Giorgio Armani and Mercedes-Benz.

Costa’s importance to the Italian shipping industry, and to the wider Italian economy, is considerable, most obviously as a generator of jobs and economic activity but also as a contributor in such less public arenas as financing for maritime research and development and training for mariners.

Indeed, Foschi’s comments to La Stampa may well have been calculated as a wake-up call for Italy as to the potential consequences of the brand’s disappearance.