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Disaster in Tourism Destinations

In this era of disasters, the events of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, the Kashmir earthquake, 9/11, the Bali bombings, among others have reinforced the fact that no destination is immune from the possibility of a disaster or crisis.  Surprisingly, many businesses have no plan and are completely unprepared to deal with either one of these.  Denise Hummel, founder of Imagine Communications wrote in her February, 2006 newsletter, “Hotels encounter crises of varying proportions on a daily basis. Some are of low level significance and can be handled internally, with a minimal amount of communication, written or verbal. Some are so serious, that advanced planning and preparation are not only prudent, but also necessary to ensure quick action under stress.” (Hummel, 2006, p.1)  Furthermore, the subject of disasters and crises in tourism systems is greatly understudied.  Faulkner (2001, p. 135) highlights this: “Tourism destinations in every corner of the globe face the virtual certainty of experiencing a disaster of one form or another at some point in their history. Despite this, few destinations have properly developed disaster management plans in place to help them cope with such eventualities. Among the reasons for this is the limited amount of systematic research that has been carried out in the field.”

Ritchie (2004) agrees with Faulkner on this point and adds that the lack of interest and research is surprising considering that crisis management, disaster recovery and organizational continuity are critical competencies for managers in both the public and private sector.  He stresses that crisis and disaster management should be a core competency for tourism destination managers.  Bierman (2003) also believes that not only is destination recovery and restoration under-researched, but it is a critically important element in tourism planning.  Having a crisis management team may be expected of established and large companies in the tourism industry; however, a tourism system is typically made up of many small businesses, which may rely on industry organizations, such as the Pacific Asia Travel Association, to provide support, especially in dealing with the media, during a crisis or disaster (Ritchie, 2004).

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