Crisis and Disaster Management for Tourism

Crisis and Disaster Management for Tourism

by Brent W. Ritchie

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Tourism destinations and businesses are becoming increasingly prone to the impacts of crises and disasters due to global environmental change and security risks. This is the first research based book that provides a strategic approach to understanding the nature of tourism crises and disasters before outlining tourism crisis and disaster planning, response, and longer term recovery and knowledge management strategies. It applies a wide range of theoretical perspectives and concepts to improve our understanding of both organisational crises and natural disasters. The book draws on examples from around the world including the USA, Europe, UK, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. It will be essential reading for tourism academics and students as well as tourism managers and government officials involved in tourism destination management and marketing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845411053
Publisher: Channel View Publications
Publication date: 04/15/2009
Series: ASPECTS OF TOURISM Series , #38
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Dr Ritchie is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Tourism at the University of Queensland, Australia. His research interests have focused on city and capital tourism, visitor behaviour and tourism marketing. He has also published extensively in the area of tourism crisis and disaster planning, management and recovery, in journals such as Tourism Management, the Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing and Current Issues in Tourism. He is also co-editor of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management and on the editorial board of four tourism journals including Tourism Recreation Research.

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Crisis and Disaster

Management for Tourism

By Brent W. Ritchie

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2009 Brent W. Ritchie
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84541-312-5


Introduction to Tourism Crisis and Disaster Management

International tourism flows are subject to disruption by a range of events that may occur in the destination itself, in competing destinations, origin markets, or they may be remote from either. The consequences may be either mild and relatively short term or have catastrophic impacts on existing industry systems. Major disruptions, also referred to as shocks, are felt in both origin and destination areas, affect both the public and private sectors and disrupt the travel plans of intending travellers.

Prideaux et al. (2003: 475)


This chapter provides an introduction to crisis and disaster management for the tourism industry. First, it defines tourism and the tourism industry and acknowledges tourism from a systems perspective. It notes the main characteristics that make tourism unique but also susceptible to change as a result of shocks, crises and disasters. The chapter suggests that decision-making of consumers can be vastly impacted by crises or disasters impacting upon business and society. Second, the chapter notes a move from crisis and disaster management to prevention and planning, suggesting a growing awareness of the impact of disasters and crises on society.

It advocates that far from ignoring crises and disasters and viewing them simply as a threat, tourism managers and destinations should embrace them as a part of the tourism system and should strategically plan for such events by identifying and understanding crises and disasters, developing and implementing management plans, and evaluating the success of those plans for more effective planning and adaptive management systems. The chapter concludes with an overview of the two main fields of theory and literature: organisational crisis management, and disaster and emergency management. It also provides a brief overview of key tourism literature and concludes with an outline of the book structure.

Crisis and Disaster Definitions

A number of authors have attempted to understand crises and disasters by first defining them. According to Keown-McMullan (1997: 8), a universally accepted definition of what constitutes a crisis has not yet been developed and it is unlikely to emerge in the near future. Pauchant and Mitroff (1992: 15) believe that a crisis is a 'disruption that physically affects a system as a whole and threatens its basic assumptions, its subjective sense of self, its existential core'. Selbst (1978 in Faulkner, 2001: 136) defines a crisis as 'any action or failure to act that interferes with an organisation's ongoing functions, the acceptable attainment of its objectives, its viability or survival, or that has a detrimental personal effect as perceived by the majority of its employees, clients or constituents'. Selbst's focus on perceptions implies that if an organisation's public or stakeholders perceive a crisis, a real crisis could evolve from this misconception, illustrating that perception management is an important consideration in managing crises. Other definitions of crises are displayed in Table 1.1. Santana (2003) suggests that the definition of the term 'crisis' is problematic due to the construct itself, its application by different fields and its use jointly in the literature with terms such as disaster, catastrophe, jolt, problem and turning point. However, Laws and Prideaux (2005) make a useful point that agreement on a consistent typology for the terms describing tourism crises will help facilitate a dialogue with other researchers in the crisis management field, vital to advancing knowledge and understanding.

Common characteristics of crises tend to be that they are internal and thus the organisation has some power or influence over a crisis. Another common theme expressed in the definitions is that the scale of damage appears to be a key differentiating factor. If an incident or event can or does impact upon the survival, viability or foundation of an organisation, then it may be considered a crisis. The urgency and speed of dealing with an incident is also a key point in many of the definitions and suggests that crises may be surprises, which is why a proactive approach to crisis planning and management is important. For instance, Keown-McMullan (1997) notes that speed of a crisis developing and the speed of response is critical for managers. Nevertheless, as Santana (2003) suggests, crises are emotional situations, putting pressure on managers ensuring quality decisions are difficult to make and implement. Another theme is that a crisis is often a turning point for an organisation, which can have both positive or negative impacts and transformations for businesses and communities. This point is discussed throughout the book and especially in Part 4 of the book, which explores the transformation of organisations and destinations at the resolution stage of a crisis or disaster (Chapter 8), and the role of knowledge management and organisational learning in improving future crisis and disaster plans and reducing the chances of an incident occurring through development of future prevention and mitigation strategies, and adaptive management (Chapter 9).

Many of the features attributed to crises are equally applicable to disasters (Faulkner, 2001), and so confusion between their distinctions can occur with common overlaps between the two, where a crisis may occur as a direct result of a disaster. Kim and Lee (1998) in their paper use the two terms together, while Hills (1998) suggests that the boundary between natural and human-induced behaviour has blurred. Faulkner (2001) considers the principal distinction between what can be termed a 'crisis' and a 'disaster' to be the extent to which the situation is attributable to the organisation itself, or can be described as originating from outside the organisation. Thus, a 'crisis' describes a situation 'where the root cause of an event is, to some extent, self-inflicted through such problems as inept management structures and practices or a failure to adapt to change', while a disaster can be defined as 'where an enterprise (or collection of enterprises in the case of a tourist destination) is confronted with sudden unpredictable catastrophic changes over which it has little control' (Faulkner, 2001: 136). Here, Faulkner (2001) suggests that crises are able, to some degree, to be controlled and within the influence of managers, whereas disasters are often external and more unpredictable. As Prideaux et al. (2003: 478) suggest, 'disasters can be described as unpredictable catastrophic change that can normally only be responded to after the event, either by deploying contingency plans already in place or through reactive response'. The key point is that external events and change may provide a greater degree of risk and uncertainty than internal events and change (Evans & Elphick, 2005).

Hills (1998) suggests, from an emergency planning perspective, that disasters are sudden and overwhelming events which occur for a limited duration in a distinct location. Although they may be limited by time and location, it may take a significant amount of time after a disaster to recover while some victims may never fully recover if they indeed survive. Therefore, disasters, and even crises can have a profound psychological aspect associated with them, which is discussed in Chapter 8 in the context of the recovery and final resolution of a disaster.

A disaster, as defined by the ISDR (2004: 338) is:

a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community/society to cope using its own resources. A disaster is a function of the risk process. It results from the combination of hazards, conditions of vulnerability and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk.

Although disasters induced by natural conditions or ecosystems are beyond the control of humans, vulnerability is a direct result of human activity and living conditions, and a disaster is the realisation of a hazard (Smith, 1995). While natural disasters have been termed a 'humanitarian disaster with a natural trigger' (Pelling, 2003: 4), John Twigg (in ISDR, 2004: 22) elaborates by stating:

strictly speaking, there are no such things as natural disasters, but there are natural hazards. A disaster is the result of a hazard's impact on the society. So the effects of a disaster are determined by the extent of a community's vulnerability to the hazard (or conversely, its ability, or capacity to cope with it). This vulnerability is not natural, but the result of an entire range of constantly changing physical, social, economic, cultural, political, and even psychological factors that shape people's lives and create the environments in which they live. 'Natural' disasters are nature's judgment on what humans have wrought.

This quote clearly illustrates the wide variety of ways researchers and managers are able to perceive a natural disaster. Many authors have approached the study of disaster management through the application of concepts and theory from sociology, politics, geography, economics, information technology and the physical sciences. Readers are directed to the edited work by Quarantelli (1998), which illustrates how some of these different disciplines perceive or define the term 'disaster' from their own perspectives. Hazards are 'potential threats to humans and their welfare ... risks are the probability of hazard occurrence' (Smith, 1995: 6) which lead to triggering events causing the disaster situation and possible impacts on tourism or tourist destinations.

As Cioccio and Michael (2007: 1) state, '[t]he nature of the tourism environment is often hazardous, where it is congruent with exotic scenery, unusual experiences or volatile natural settings. In such a landscape, inevitably in one locality or another, or across whole regions, there occur natural events which disrupt or destroy the physical base for tourism, and so threaten the existence of these regional enterprises', not to mention both visitor and local lives. It is likely that the tourism environment in some destinations may become even more hazardous due to global environmental change and climate change. As Becken and Hay (2007) suggest, climate-tourism hotspots such as the European Alps and small island states are susceptible to increase in global warming resulting in reduced snow cover, increased avalanche risk and increased tropical cyclones. Furthermore, as de Freitas (2006) notes, there is no clear evidence to suggest whether climate change is producing extreme weather events.

With respect to disasters, there are a range of natural hazards that may occur as a result of natural or human processes. In both instances, a disaster (or indeed a crisis) threatens the existence of a system whether it is a nation state, social community, government, organisation, natural environment, eco-system or some other established system (including tourism). The next section of this book defines tourism, the tourism industry and considers the vulnerability of the tourism system to incidents such as shocks, crises and disasters. In particular, it notes increasing concern over natural hazards and disasters as a result of climate change and concerns over global environmental change.

Understanding Tourism

Tourism definitions

The growth of tourism has been fuelled by general improvements in leisure time combined by increased discretionary income for many people. This has helped to fuel a desire to escape from work routine and engage in holidays, whether domestically or internationally. Definitions of tourism vary with respect to whether the term is applied from a supply side (industry) perspective or a demand side (consumer) perspective. As Smith (1988: 181) has noted, 'there are many different legitimate definitions of tourism that serve many different, legitimate needs'. Moreover, many of the tourism definitions vary due to organisations or individuals trying to define their own motives for tourism activities and opportunities. However, there is common ground covered by many of the definitions, although there is debate over whether tourism can be called an industry or whether it is simply a composite of organisations or industry sectors. Recent developments in quantifying tourism through satellite accounting systems show how many organisations or sub-sectors combine to form tourism.

An early definition of tourism stated that a minimum of a 24-hour stay at a site was required for an individual to be considered a 'tourist'. However, this has been modified to an overnight stay which, according to Weaver and Oppermann (2000: 28) 'is a significant improvement over the former criterion of a 24 hour stay, which proved to be both arbitrary and extremely difficult to apply'. If a person's trip does not incorporate at least one overnight stay, then the term 'excursionist' is usually applied (Weaver & Oppermann, 2000). This definition can be applied to both international and domestic travellers. For example, international stayovers (or tourists) are those who stay in a destination outside their usual country of residence for at least one night, while international excursionists (or same-day visitors) are those who stay in an international location without residing overnight. Furthermore, a domestic stayover (or tourist) is someone who stays overnight in a destination, that is, within their own country of residence but outside of their usual home environment (usually specified by a distance of some kind). Domestic excursionists (or same-day visitors) undertake a similar trip but do not stay overnight. Tourists can also be classified based on their motivations or purpose of visit including:

• leisure travellers who may be sightseeing or visiting friends and relatives;

• business travellers; and

• other travellers such as students or people travelling for medical reasons.

Tourists can also be differentiated based on whether they are inbound, outbound or domestic tourists. Inbound tourists are those who visit a country from overseas, and combined with domestic tourism (those travelling within their own country) can be classified as internal tourists (Pender, 1999). However, inbound tourists provide much-needed foreign exchange to countries and influence the balance of payments. Domestic tourists simply circulate money within the national economy and do not add to the income of the country, although they may spread money to specific parts of the country. The majority of tourism demand is domestic in nature, with a significant proportion comprising excursions followed by overnight stays. However, for some countries, the level of outbound tourism (to other countries) for holidays is actually higher than their country's inbound tourism, generating a trade deficit. In countries such as the UK where the exchange rate is favourable and holidays abroad are cheaper, factors lead to a large outbound tourism market. In other countries, such as Japan, the outbound market is still small in comparison to the UK but is growing due to social and economic factors.

The tourism industry

Smith (1988) believes that it is difficult to determine the precise magnitude of the tourism industry due to an absence of an accepted operational definition of tourism. As Mill and Morrison (1985) note, tourism is a difficult phenomenon to describe because all tourism involves travel, yet not all travel is tourism. All tourism involves recreation, yet not all tourism is recreation. All tourism occurs during leisure time, but not all leisure time is given to touristic pursuits. Nevertheless, the tourism industry has been defined in principle as the 'aggregate of all businesses that directly provide goods or services to facilitate business, pleasure, and leisure activities away from the home environment' (Smith, 1988: 183). The primary tourist product usually consists of transport, the travel trade (tour operators and travel agents), accommodation and catering, as well as tourist attractions. Secondary and tertiary businesses can exist in sectors such as:

• the retail sector (for crafts and souvenirs);

• banks and insurance sector;

• entertainment and leisure sector;

• excursion and tour sector; and

• personal services (such as newsagents, hairdressers, etc.).

Hall (1995: 9) believes that three factors tend to emerge when examining various definitions about the tourism industry:

• the tourism industry is regarded as essentially a service industry;

• the inclusion of business, pleasure and leisure activities emphasises 'the nature of the goods a traveller requires to make the trip more successful, easier, or enjoyable' (Smith, 1988: 183); and

• the notion of a 'home environment', refers to the arbitrary delineation of a distance threshold or period of overnight stay.


Excerpted from Crisis and Disaster by Brent W. Ritchie. Copyright © 2009 Brent W. Ritchie. Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
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Table of Contents

Part A: Setting the Context for Tourism Crisis and Disaster Management1. Introduction to Tourism Crisis and Disaster Management2. Classifying and Understanding Tourism Crises and Disasters3. Strategic Crisis and Disaster Planning and ManagementPart B: Tourism Crisis and Disaster Prevention and Planning4. Tourism Crisis Prevention and Disaster Mitigation5. Tourism Disaster and Crisis Preparedness and PlanningPart C: Tourism Crisis and Disaster Response, Implementation and Management6. Coordination, Control and Resource Allocation7. Crisis and Disaster Communication and Recovery Marketing Part D: Tourism Crisis and Disaster Recovery, Resolution and Feedback8. Long Term Recovery and Resolution9. Knowledge Management and Organisational Learning10. Conclusion and Reflections on Tourism Crisis and Disaster Management

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