In the recent years tourism has turned out to be a powerful economic tool and topping driver towards the rapidly increasing global economy. The major contributions of the tourism industry include achieving strong economic growth, high export revenues, creation of jobs and opportunities, and increase in foreign currencies and investments (Laws, Prideaux, and Chon, 2007). Tourism as a product is very sensitive to global changes, especially due to the possible impact from changes in politics and natural epidemics or disasters (Theobald, 2005). However, there is a major concern that needs to be addressed in this vulnerable industry; safety and security of tourism service (Laws, Prideaux, and Chon, 2007).
Tourists want to travel to destinations they feel safe from attacks and diseases, and other crises. Crises are becoming more frequent due to pressures on industry from demands in the global market (Theobald, 2005). Simply, tourists will avoid crisis and disaster areas; therefore, this essay discusses possible factors that stand to impact level of risk during crises and disasters, and their possible treatment options. However, a review of reasons for crisis and disaster situations is necessary to understand factors that influence the level of risk during such occurrences.
Reasons for Crises and Disaster Occurrences
There is great attraction of risky and exotic locations on the planet. These are the most vulnerable places to natural disasters beyond man’s control. Areas that experience volcanic activities, avalanches, and hurricanes are the best sceneries for tourists but rather dangerous. In the recent years, several natural disasters have happened, including deadly floods, earthquakes, wildfires and hurricanes. Tourists will avoid areas that face zero catastrophes and travel to destinations exposed to fewer risks. Usually disasters such as hurricanes and floods cause damage to properties along coastal areas, and even loss of lives. Tourism structures are then damaged as well as possible loss of lives. The recent 2004 Tsunami is an example of a natural disaster that affected tourism industry globally.
These are terrorist attacks related directly to tourist activities in different tourist destinations of the world. There have been plenty of these attacks since the beginning of the new millennium causing major crises in various countries. Washington D.C in the United States is a major tourist destination experienced a major terrorist attack that kick-started the series of attacks in different parts of the globe. It was then followed by the March 2004 Madrid train bombing, Southern Thailand unrest since 2004, November 2005 Amman Jordan hotel attacks, and Kenya-Somalia attacks from 2009 up to date. Terrorists usually direct their attacks to tourists signifying an attack to the sitting government (Freyer and Schroder, 2007, p. 129-133). The tourism sector is susceptible to onslaughts due to enmity that exists between countries or countries and military groups. The eventual impact in tourism is that visitors will avoid these destinations for fear of being caught in the middle of the attacks (Freyer and Schroder, 2007, p. 129-133). Travel procedures will also be affected besides tourist beliefs; hence, this affects the industry in a global scale.
Hostile Political Environment
Political instability is a major element towards tourism sector crises. It refers to the situation in which the government mechanisms and rule are frequently challenged on their legitimacy by forces or elements outside the government or political system (Hall and Sullivan, 1996, pg.107). Tourists will definitely perceive risks in unstable political climate just like terrorism. When politics are heating up in a country, tourists would opt to cancel their trips and go to safer destinations where they do not stand to face the aftermath of political crisis. An example of a political situation is China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 whereby more than 10,000 tourist visitors canceled their travel visits to Beijing. Point to note however is that terrorism attacks are always linked to political imbalance (Hall and Sullivan, 1996, pg.107).
Epidemics and Diseases
Health issues are fundamental with tourism at both international and domestic levels. Tourists travel from one country to another in search of the best destinations with the best sceneries and other tourism products. Thus, there is a possibility that an epidemic affecting the local country can be easily transferred to other countries abroad. The recent past has shown several cases with various epidemics and diseases that have affected tourism. The 2015 AFCON (African Cup of Nations) was moved from original hosts, Morocco to Equatorial Guinea after the former refused to host the tournament for the fear of Ebola epidemic that had affected several West African countries. The same Ebola crisis caused banishment of flights to and fro most African countries for the fear of spreading the deadly and highly contagious disease. Another global epidemic that affected tourism globally was Swine Flu (H1N1) virus in 2009. These epidemics cause deaths; tourists avoided destinations affected by all means possible.
Factors that Influence the Level of Risk Associated With Crisis and Disaster Situations
- International Travelling
Globalization of the tourism industry and world market has allowed people to travel for various business activities and tourism purposes. The number of international travelers has increased over the last years, meaning that there are more tourism activities going on. However, destination countries stand to suffer especially due to incoming visitors who may bring diseases or epidemics to the country. There is, therefore a higher risk associated with increased travelling programs on crisis and disaster situations in the tourism industry.
- Global Warming and Changing Climatic Patterns
Geographers have struggled in the recent years to unravel the real issue behind rapid changes in climatic world patterns. Research into the matter has shown that global warming is one of the main causes behind the climatic changes. Global warming refers to gradual increase of the earth’s atmospheric temperatures due to gas emissions into the air. Changes in climate have consequently lead to heavy floods, tsunamis, hurricanes and ice melts in different parts of the globe. These natural disasters affect the level of risk associated with crises in tourism industry (Hall and Higham, 2005).
- Rising Unstable Political Structures
Politics is the order of the day in the current world. Different states are currently undergoing political turmoil that stand to affect their economies and tourism products in particular. Egypt, Syria, and Ukraine are among the most recent victims of political unrest. The rising level of political imbalances have a negative effect on the level of risk in regards to tourism crises (Hall and Sullivan, 1996, pg.107).
- Religion Differences
People belong to different religious backgrounds that cause them to do and believe differently. Religious differences have been a source of wars and attacks between several countries. This has been seen commonly between Islamic countries in the Middle East and the western side especially the United States. Therefore, these wars and hostile attack environments create a deadly zone for tourists who snub such destinations since they are not safe. They catalyze the level of risks associated in such disaster situations.
- Porosity of Country Boarders
States all over the world always try their best to take care of their boarders towards keeping their countrymen safe. However, some governments have failed miserably to contain cases of porous borders whereby outsiders can enter and leave a country at pleasure. Corrupt officials have often been linked to allowance of illicit arms and persons into various countries causing a threat from terrorists. Terrorists may take advantage of porous borders to plan attacks and smuggle illegal arms to promote their terrorist activities. Therefore, there is a high level of risk when country borders are not efficient.
- Technological Advancements
The world is experiencing rapid growth in technology. This has impacted global industries both positively and negatively. However, it has boosted terrorism activities that negatively impact tourism. Terror groups can make threatening videos and broadcast them through the online media in issuing demands to governments they are interested in. They can use technology to create advanced weaponry to facilitate attacks that are commonly aimed at attacking tourists. Technology, therefore, directly or indirectly affects the level of risk associated with tourism crises.
Risk Treatment Options to Manage Crisis and Disaster Situations
Tourism crises are very unpredictable and they are bound to happen. Countries rich in tourism products should not wonder when crises will happen or disasters strike but rather they should be concerned about the most appropriate way to mitigate or deal with them (Laws, Prideaux, and Chon, 2007). The ill prepared nature of the tourism industry should be solved in order to enhance proper crisis and disaster management (Beirman, 2003). The following are a few suggested remedies to treat risks associated with managing crisis and disaster situations.
- Employing advanced screening gadgets in travelling destinations to detect new cases of epidemics. Early detection of a possible epidemic can prevent a crisis that will eventually affect tourism sectors. Therefore, airport and seaports, and major railroad entry points should have the highest degree of traveler screening.
- Fixing porous entry points or boarders that make countries vulnerable to terrorism attacks can mitigate tourism disasters. Terrorist groups find their way and arsenal into various countries by illegal passage of the borders. Strict and efficient border guarding can ensure no illegal items or people come into the country. Less terror will lead to less crisis and disaster situations.
- Bridging religions and improving inter-national diplomatic relations can help mitigate crises in tourism. Countries with different religious backgrounds can sign agreements and treaties to work together and as such avoid terrorism and wars. This in turn benefits the global tourism sector.
- Improving emergency preparedness of the tourism sector can be also a treatment to disaster situations. The industry should adopt plans that should be evaluated and updated regularly to dissolve any sudden crisis situation. For instance, in case of a natural disaster, there should be emergency preparedness that can save the situation i.e. lives of tourists and relevant property (Beirman, 2003) (Sonmez and Sevil, 1992).
- Managerial commitment and awareness is also required in all events to aid solve tourist disasters. Here, they should train personnel and establish other resources to mitigate effects caused by the hazards, and reduce losses
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