The link between crisis management and tourism is and often neglected in studies and within the tourism industry. But what happens when a destination is hit by an earthquake or terrorist attack causing a crisis. This discussion paper briefly looks at the island of Phuket and the city of New Orleans which were both affected by natural disasters yet managed to restore their tourism industry.
Overcoming a crisis: Destinations in repair
The tourism industry is constantly developing and changing to suit the needs of consumers. Butler (Butler, 2006) states that destination go through five stages: exploration, development, stagnation then rejuvenation or decline. The stagnation period is often caused by an event entering a crisis which can have a devastating effect on tourism. However this does not mean that the destination is unable to re-establish itself, effective crisis management is essential to destination rejuvenation. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that a crisis create a site for dark tourism.
Much of the research regarding the link between crisis management and tourism has been attributed by Faulkner (2001) who developed a crisis lifecycle model. He suggests that there are six stages of crisis: Pre-event, prodromal, emergency, intermediate, long-term or recovery and resolution and that a thorough understanding of each stage is vital to dealing with a crisis. However stages of this model can be questioned for example how can a destination plan for a crisis that was unexpected? This almost seems impossible. There have been many disasters that have been unforeseen such as 9/11 and the SARS epidemic.
In the case of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005 and the tsunami in Phuket in 2004 both destinations had a long history of natural disasters but none had been in the recent years or to the severity of the disasters to be discussed in this paper. The strategies implemented on these destinations are evident that destinations can overcome a crisis.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans the media reported constantly on the devastation it had caused to the city particularly its residential areas. Regardless of the fact the hurricane had hardly affected the tourism infrastructure, tourists arrivals still decreased. The New Orleans Media Centre was created to control the medias access to the affected areas (Chacko and Marcell, 2007). Tourism authorities in Phuket followed a similar approach however this was not as successful. A media centre was also created but media access was not controlled with members of the media still broadcasting on the disaster. Was this because Phuket was a completely different destination and therefore needed a different strategy or was the strategy not implemented enough? Regardless of the reason further action needed to be taken to draw visitors back to Phuket (Gurtner, 2006).
The next step tourism authorities in Phuket took was to invite celebrities and people with high status to visit the island in an attempt to lure in tourist (Gurtner, 2006). This step proved very successful after all how many of you would feel drawn to a destination after seeing your favourite actor, musician or sports person boasting of its beauty. The same action was taken in New Orleans with an added DVD created encouraging previous visitors to the city to visit it again. This action taken helped reinforce the destinations position and brand and led to an increase in visitor numbers.
Today both destinations have a thriving tourism industry that is predicted to expand and increase over the years. The measures put in place to restore both destinations after the crisis can be argued to have been beneficial to its development as restoration often precedes reconstruction. New Orleans for example are reconstructing their port which is predicted to host more than a million cruises down the Mississippi river. Who knows weather this action would have been taken if the city was not devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Phuket have plans in place to train the indigenous people in fields related to tourism to meet the predicted demand and they also plan to expand the airport. Although there are many different factors that may have affected this decision the crisis may have played a part. Perhaps the media coverage highlighted the simplicity of the islands people particularly in responding to the crisis or maybe the sponsored visits to the island by celebrities increased its status. Either way it is certain that a destinations can overcome a crisis and go on to attract more visitors than they did before. This is why it is important the link between tourism and crisis management is strengthened to reduce and prevent negative outcomes and lead to a speedy destination recovery.
Butler, R. (ed.) (2006) The tourism area life cycle model, Vol 1: Applications and modifications.Clevedon: Channel View Publications
Chacko, H. And Marcell. M. (2007) Marketing a tourism destination after a crisis: The case of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. 2007 Annual International CHRIE Conference & Exposition. University of New Orleans 25-29 July. Texas: Hyatt Regency Dallas, pp.6-11.
Faulkner, B. (2001) Towards a framework for tourism disaster management. Tourism Management,22(2) pp.135-147.
Gurtner, Y. (2006) Phuket: Tsunami and tourism: a preliminary investigation in Laws, E.,Prideax, B. And Chon, K. (ed.) Crisis Management in Tourism.Oxon:CABI, pp.217-234.