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Workshop 4 Summary: Recovering Tourism after a Crisis

  • World Export Development Forum 2011

    Private sector engagement with ldcs for tourism-led growth and inclusive sustainable development

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    The purpose of the workshop on recovering tourism after a crisis was to discuss how a country can resurrect its tourism industry after a major shock, be it political instability or a natural disaster. After the tsunami in Thailand and the earthquake in Pakistan, and political instability in Egypt and Tunisia, it became clear that the economic well-being of some countries can become more vulnerable if their economies rely heavily on tourism. A crisis can seriously reduce foreign exchange reserves for a government, drive down the value of its currency, and also adversely touch the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, those who make a living in the tourism value chain.

    During the presentations and discussion, three key elements of crisis management were identified:

    • How to prepare/plan for crisis
    • How to handle a crisis/crisis management
    • What to do after a crisis has happened

    1.    Planning
    Tourism being a trust and belief product, an emotional experience, it is important to react immediately as tourism is the first sector to be hit at a time of crisis. It is essential to develop a media response and integrate tourism into the emergency structure, making sure key actors have the necessary phone numbers and other information for emergency situations. Countries should also consider establishing a crisis fund, as Egypt has done after its recent crisis. Risk and crisis management will be able to convert tourism into sustainable tourism.

    2.    Immediate crisis management
    The critical elements are:

    • Tell the truth and bring respectful media to write honestly about you;
    • Give people permission to believe;
    • Be in charge and give the impression of being in charge and having the situation under control;
    • Agree on message to avoid conflicting messaging;
    • Social networking – react quickly in order to avoid the spread of inaccurate information through social networking tools such as YouTube and Facebook.

    3.    No crisis is ever the same. Know the unknown and prepare for the unknown.

    • Never try to solve your problems alone, use the help of others, including social partners and the positive effects word-of-mouth can have, for example, that of the first tourists returning to a tourist site after a crisis.
    • In times of crisis, use the crisis for training purposes to avoid having to lay off people. When possible, replace international tourists with domestic ones.
    • Use persuasion instead of just information to regain trust. Use good stories to relaunch the image of your country.

    Other points raised during the workshop discussions included:

    • Tourism is the first sector to be hit by a crisis;
    • Proper planning and crisis management are needed to react quickly and in order to assign clear roles and responsibilities;
    • Emotional power is important   show that you have control over the situation and that you are in charge;
    • No crisis is the same, a crisis is always a learning experience;
    • No one wants to have their face linked to a disaster   therefore most political leaders will not want to be the first to address the crisis;
    • Social media and social networks are extremely important, enabling the news of a crisis to spread quickly   therefore you need to react quickly;
    • The first 48 hours are critical and it is advisable to seek professional advice on how to deal with the crisis in order to avoid severe damage.