How Can the Tourism Industry Improve Disaster Preparedness and Support Destinations' Recovery Efforts?

How Can the Tourism Industry Improve Disaster Preparedness and Support Destinations' Recovery Efforts?

Our current issue article series this week focuses on the tourism industry’s role in destinations that have undergone natural disasters and other emergencies. How can tourism businesses and destinations be more prepared, and improve disaster and crisis management strategies? How can tourism assist with promoting education, raising awareness, and helping communities after the disaster? Head over to TIES-EXCHANGE to share your comments and ideas! (Member log-in required)


Tourism Disaster Preparedness Tourism Disaster Preparedness Tourism Disaster Preparedness


Tourism in destinations around the world frequently face challenges related to political, social, and environmental crises, and these factors that destination managers and tourism planners don’t have control over often play a critical part in influencing consumer choice. We’ve all been there; air travel after 9-11, the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, and political instability and security concerns in many parts of the world have all given tourism businesses added headaches to deal with.


Disasters present challenges to the tourism industry not only because of their negative impact on visitor numbers, but also due to travelers’ potential positive or negative impact on recovering destinations. Volunteer Travel Insights 2009 notes that many travelers started to think about volunteering after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Similarly, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti sparked interest in voluntourism. The presence of untrained volunteers, however, can hinder relief operations and voluntourism tours making a profit from these disasters can be considered unethical.


Tourism's Role in Disaster Relief and Recovery Efforts

Tourism constitutes a major part of the sustainable development of many places that have been hit by disasters, and thus should be able to play an important role in relief efforts. Tourism can draw attention to the destruction caused by these disasters and attract more support for these places. Tourists spending money at the site of a disaster can give the affected economy a boost – but this should occur after the relief efforts have been completed and the local tourism stakeholders are back on their feet.


There have been cases where tourism, instead of assisting, got in the way of the recovery process. For example, after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, many of the affected local communities struggled to provide the basic necessities for those left homeless and unemployed, while the hastened investment in tourism development in areas where local communities were still unprepared prevented the local residents affected by the tsunami from making a smooth transition back to their homes. (Source: "Post-tsunami reconstruction and tourism: a second disaster?" by Tourism Concern, 2005)


What are some of the best practices and lessons learned for tourism businesses and destinations working in countries and regions affected by natural and man-made disasters? How should the tourism industry best approach re-building and re-developing tourism activities after a disaster, in a way that ensures traveler safety, support for local communities, and long-term benefits?


Preparing to Respond to Future Disasters

Planeterra Emergency Preparedness and Response ProgramThe Planeterra Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps empower local people to develop their communities, conserve their environment, and provide supportive solutions to local problems, has an Emergency Preparedness and Response program to deal with climate-related and natural disasters around the world. The program provides travelers with the chance to invest in the "Help Now Fund", which helps Planeterra to assist at-risk communities by developing emergency response plans, providing targeted aid and relief during a disaster and helping the area recover and rebuild more quickly and effectively.


For example, Planeterra assisted with monetary and food donations in the 2010 Haiti Earthquake disaster; collected monetary and food donations and helped rebuild communities affected by the 2010 Peru flood and the 2011 Thai flood; and raised money to build water stations in response to the 2011 East African drought. While all these examples helped countries in need, Planeterra also has projects in this program that aid in preparing communities better for future disasters, provide education to local communities, conservation of the environment, health care for communities and much more. See full list of Planeterra's projects here.


Join our discussions on TIES-EXCHANGE to share your examples and experiences! *If you're not yet a member of TIES, and would like to access TIES-EXCHANGE and other member resources, please consider joining TIES today.



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