Saturday, 16 August 2014

An Overview Of Tourism Disasters - Strategies To Restore Fading Out Destinations

Dr Bindi Varghese
Lecturer, Dept of Tourism Studies, Christ University, Bangalore.

Tourism can be vulnerable to disasters and, being fragmented its response is often difficult to initiate and coordinate. In an era of considerable disasters and uncertainty, many destinations have been made alarmingly aware of the fickle nature of tourism. Peak industry bodies, academicians and professionals advocate the introduction of risk/crisis management strategies as a means to prepare against adverse and operational capacity of any destination. The healthy operation of tourism would relate to develop a knowledge management system for disasters in a tourist destination in terms of a knowledge framework for tourism disaster management at various levels.

This paper examines the coverage of textual analysis to examine the framing of tourist risk in the account to these disasters and therefore contends that the strategies on disasters need to employ more precise and careful monitoring of disasters in major generating markets. Such activities may be invaluable in providing assistance to tourism managers regarding decisions on better strategies and marketing activity aimed at repairing damage and returning to normality in an affected country or region.

Knowledge is a powerful resource to help governments, organizations and communities prevent, mitigate, plan for and recover from disasters and crises. Destinations need knowledge in the three stages of disaster management – pre disaster prevention and planning, disaster situation management and post disaster phases of resolution and return to normality. The paper creates awareness for tourism destination managers to make preventative planning and management of disasters, knowledge framework for disaster management in an upcoming destination.

Tourism disasters highlight the vulnerability of the tourist trade to unforeseen events thereby emphasize towards a study to undertake & analyze the different crises and also diagnose the approaches taken by tourism managers.

A disaster may be nature-driven or a creation of human-being. Disaster management is a well-drawn preparation for resisting a disaster, instant reaction to disaster and a detailed plan for bringing the situation back to normalcy.

The Extent of the Effects of a Disaster depends on the following factors:
The impact of an incidence occurring suddenly, its intensity and its characteristics are some factors which determine the extent of the effect: Greater the impact and intensity, greater is the extent of effects. A combined thinking of the danger and the potential loss decides the way in which they affect the persons, the environment and the systems providing various essential services.

Advanced intimation of disasters, rapid and effective shifting schemes and a high level of awareness among the people – have all reduced the potential losses. Needless to say, greater awareness and rapid action are the pivotal factors in reducing the intensity of uncertainties. The existing systems are not capable enough to handle the disasters. Therefore, preparedness, adequate disaster management / plans are the saner options.

Principles of Disaster Management

Absorbing the schemes in general development plans

Protection from disasters and preparedness to meet them should not be regarded as very different from / independent of general economic development; in fact, they should be treated as an integral part of wider economic development process. As the impact of any disaster is generally grave and unfavourable on any project meant for raising the development level, it would be irrational to segregate the thought disaster from that of development.

Social involvement

Disaster Management should not be considered as the responsibility of the government alone. Along with the government, the society – i.e. the people – should also join hands. Disaster Management should be the joint responsibility of government and people. It is, of course, necessary for this that various social segments have adequate knowledge about disaster management and of the need. And hence there is a requirement to ascertain ideal strategies to determine how to pro-actively deal with the potential for future crisis related to tourism. It is the need if the hour to refresh a tourism crisis management philosophy. An extremely practical and useful guide to understand the management dynamics of crisis conditions in a number of destinations and across a range of crisis initiators. Strategies to be pro-active to deal with crisis, relates to:

  • Highlighting the importance of crisis management and specify a guide for tourism operators and offices
  • Analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches of tourism managers to deal with disasters.
  • The study covers crises caused by: terrorism, natural disaster, disease, crime and even war

It is high time that serious attention be given to the impact of crisis as a disruptive factor in this industry and how to overcome it and a valuable service by remedying this omission, creating a crisis classification system and cataloging remedies for the recovery and restoration of tourism destinations.

Reasons for the Collapse of Tourism Destination Areas include

·         Inadequate market research: Lack of in-depth market research is one of the key problems for new businesses. It's easy to get carried away with a business idea and set up a business without testing its viability. Accurate market data will help prevent over-optimistic forecasts.

  • Facility and ill defined area planning: A Master Plan recommends a strategy to establish a framework for the well defined strong system .The planning can be divided into various sub-areas, where specific planning issues and development needs could be addressed in more detail.

  • Insufficient long range funding: These include ongoing expenses that have been recognized but not sufficiently funded. The primary objectives of long-range financial planning are to establish policy and processes over a future period in order to:

    • Identify long term implications of fiscal decisions;
    • Provide sufficient and consistent resources for services;
    • Insure cost effectiveness of services;
    • Planning over a multi-year period.

Long-range financial planning involves a strategic comparison of expenses, service levels and revenues. Analysis of these variables, called a "Gap Analysis" will reveal the disparity between available funds and anticipated expenses. The information will then be applied to a model that will be updated on an annual basis.

  • Changing tastes and preferences: As a challenging, competitive and sensitive industry, tourism demands vision and creativity from planners and developers. Mass tourists who live in a fragile environment caused dire consequences to society and environment. This has mooted the search for alternatives. In order to accommodate the changing taste and preference of tourists and to bring more people into the ambit of tourism, the industry is introducing new and better varieties of products and promotes sales and marketing by highlighting their uniqueness.

  • Lack of competitiveness: Adopting a competitive edge is a requirement for every business concern in today’s scenario along with a proper strategic plan. Develop appropriate strategies to enable key products and services and the organization itself to best respond to the subsequent issues and challenges flowing from the diagnosis.

  • Weak management:  Tourism planners and developers need to take an upper hand in the planning process; this would enable a concrete structure for overall growth and development in building up a better tourism product.

  • Decline: This stage reflects on a complete collapse of a tourism product and results in economic losses or failure which imposes pressure on tourism planners and developers. It also highlights the Butler’s (1980) model of the tourism area life cycle where the recovery stage has to be analyzed and stressed upon.

The interlaying factors to Restore Tourism Destinations in Crisis determine a Strategic Marketing Approach with an overview of the following factors:

Destinations in crisis

The marketability of individual destinations and global tourism is vulnerable to sudden changes in market perceptions. Acts of man or nature can transform the reputation, desirability and marketability of the most popular tourism destinations overnight.

Managing the recovery and restoration of destinations in crisis

The crises caused by external factors massively affect the appeal and marketability of the destinations concerned. Certain crisis would be under the direct managerial control of destination authorities. Some of them would be —war, terrorism, political/social unrest, crime waves, epidemics and natural disasters. These examples represent the plurality of factors, which impact negatively on the marketability of a destination. Crises resulting from management failures, although relevant to destination crisis management may also be covered. The management of a destination crisis is greatly influenced by its dura­tion which can be dealt by involving a thorough consolidation.

Promotion of tourism during an ongoing crisis 

Countries which are popular for its potentials should emphasize on a qualified plan, to transform them as some of the world’s most popular inter­national tourist destinations. With a tremendous variety of scenery, terrain and climate, ranging from snow-capped mountains to barren deserts, destinations can be marketed well with its site potential. There can be many unexpected crises beyond the human control, which can be taken into account with an effective strategic sketch for better preparedness.

Marketing during a long-term crisis

During a long-term crisis any destination’s tourism segment can show every indication of great triumphs of crisis marketing and hence would bring into highlight the prospects for a healthy and promising recovery with rising numbers of over­seas visitors.

Post-crisis tourism recovery

The impact of crises on a national economy can be severe and it is essential that recovery is rapid and complete. Tourism may be an ideal focus for the recovery effort, as it is resilient and has many links into other sectors. It can be ascertained that on balance, tourism is worthy of special consideration as a vehicle for post-crisis recovery.

Natural disaster

The climatic conditions and unstable landforms, coupled with high population density, are prone to be vulnerable. Developing countries suffer very often from various natural disasters namely drought, flood, cyclone, earth quake, landslide, forest fire, hail storm, locust, volcanic eruption, etc. which strike a devastating impact on human life, economy and environment. Though it is almost impossible to fully recoup the damage caused by the disasters, it is possible to

(i)                 Minimize the potential risks by developing early warning strategies.
(ii)               Prepare and implement developmental plans to provide resilience to such disasters.
(iii)             Mobilize resources including communication and tele-medicinal services, and
(iv)             To help in rehabilitation and post-disaster reconstruction.

Space technology plays a crucial role in efficient mitigation of disasters. While communication satellites help in disaster warning, relief mobilization and tele-medicinal support, earth observation satellites provide required database for pre-disaster preparedness programmes. The technology also helps to handle disaster response by monitoring activities and post-disaster damage assessment, along with reconstruction and rehabilitation. Hence there is a requirement for determining the role of space technology in evolving a suitable strategy for disaster preparedness and operational framework for their monitoring, assessment and mitigation, which identifies gap areas and recommend appropriate strategies for disaster mitigation.

Rebuilding the tourist industry

Distinctive destinations recognize unique cities and towns that are working to preserve their tourism products and promote different segments of tourism industry which help to enhance their community and encourage others to enjoy all they have to offer. Destinations across the country that offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, diverse cultural activities, attractive architecture and a strong commitment to historic preservation will highlight sustainability and revitalization measures .

Restoring confidence through information dissemination

It is imperative to document and disseminate restoration project information to learn from experience and eliminate costly, repetitive errors. The restoration is in its infancy stage and every project is a unique learning process. Projects are more cost-effective and have a higher degree of success through planning, application of science-based methods, monitoring and adaptive management.

The inclusion of different plans or schemes

Disaster Management has a wide connotation. It does not merely mean various aspects of disasters and various schemes meant for their avoidance. If the disaster management plans / schemes are to be effectively implemented, other segments of the society should be clubbed together. The exclusion of any plan may prove very expensive. On the contrary, effective inclusion and coordination of plans can do miracles.

Steps in Disaster Management

The pre-disaster stage

This stage focuses on minimizing the damage to life, property and environment, before the disaster strikes and at the prohibition stage; various schemes are drafted for controlling the damages to minimize the effects of disaster.


It refers to the readiness, on the governmental, social and personal levels, to effectively face the disaster that has already visited and includes practical disaster-layouts.

The warning of disaster

It is very crucial that immediately after receiving slightest hint of a disaster, the information about its advent reaches the entire danger-prone area.

Response & relief measures

This includes a wide-ranging activities including the erection of control booths, action according to the action-plan drafted, the broadcasting of danger notice.

The post – disaster stage

While restoring the normalcy, it is also equally necessary to ensure that if, unfortunately, the disaster revisits, the extent of damage is lesser. Restoration includes assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Revival / resurrection

In revival, the focus is on the erection of facilities of greater competence than those built in pre-disaster stage. Erection of new buildings, taking ultra care of durability while erecting various essential facilities – are some illustrations of revival activities


The reconstruction of the affected region and bringing back people’s lives to normalcy is a pretty long process – especially because of the existence of severe financial constraints.

A Systematic Approach - Improves destination Restoration Success

To assist planners in conducting cost-effective monitoring for destination restoration, techniques can be developed consisting of four components:

  1. Planning
  2. Construction and Implementation
  3. Assessment of Performance
  4. Management of the System


The key element in the planning the restoration project would require: Conceptual modeling, site assessments, and cost estimation.

Conceptual modeling
The conceptual model details the structural aspects of the system that must be developed to meet the goals.

Site assessment
If the site lacks the characteristics necessary to reach performance goals, the restoration project will likely fail.

Cost estimation
The end of the planning stage involves cost estimation. Restoration managers must account for land acquisition, engineering design, and construction, among other factors.

Applying the continual evaluation process of adaptive management leads to cost-effective, successful restoration projects.

Construction and implementation

Projects that require less physical restructuring of the site are more likely to develop successfully without human intervention. Projects requiring more engineering to massively rework the site often have a higher degree of uncertainty.

Assessment of performance

Post-implementation monitoring should focus on a parameter indicative of the original goal. There are numerous low-cost ways to effectively monitor a restoration project.

Management of the system

Restoration plans should be modified according to the principles of adaptive management. Thereby restoration policy can be understood well.

Therefore an ideal area development can include a conceptual planning phase which can include the project’s interests & objectives, the resources to be developed, supportive equipments to be created, social & environmental implications, governments involvement in the form of financial aid & subsidies and there could be measures proposed to re-dress the adverse impacts.


Disaster management would suggest measures to relieve pressure on the upcoming destinations through proper crisis intervention. Therefore, an appropriate approach is to be adopted with an integrated planning process. Hence, environmental concerns can be a critical input for developmental plans.


Publication Information:

Beirman David, Allen & Unwin Restoring Tourism Destinations in Crisis: A Strategic Marketing Approach, Crows Nest, N.S.W. Publication Year: 2003.

Karnik, V. & Algermissen, S.T, Assessment and Mitigation of Earthquake Risk, 1978, Seismic Zoning - UNESCO, Paris.

Rao, D.P, Remote sensing & GIS for sustainable development: An overview. Proc. Int. Symp. on Resource and Environmental Monitoring: Local, regional and global, 1998,. 1998 BudapestHungary.

Rao, U.R. Space Technology for Sustainable Development, Tata McGraw-Hill 1996, Publishing Company Ltd. New DelhiIndia.

Agarwal, R. 1997. "Survival of Firms Over the Product Life Cycle." Southern Economic

Agarwal, S. 1998. "What Is New With the Resort Cycle? A Reply." Tourism Management