Assessment 1, book 1, ‘Investigate an issue or event since 1995 that has affected tourism demand in a country or region you have studied’ For my 1st assessment I am going to be looking how the Tsunami on December 26th 2004 affected tourism in Thailand. I will recount the details of the tsunami, followed by personal opinion on how the scale of the disaster could have been avoided. I will then quote facts and evidence using newspaper/ hotel reports and then summarise my findings.
The Indian Ocean Tsunami on December 26th 2004 was caused by an underwater earthquake and was one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit Thailand, causing major damage and disruption to the environment, property and to the economy. Partly because the worst affected industries were fishing and tourism, many thousands of families lost their livelihoods. The epicentre of the earthquake was in Sumatra, Indonesia and affected many of the surrounding countries such as :- Thailand, Somalia, Burma, Maldives, Malaysia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Bangladesh, South Africa, Yemen, Madagascar, and Sri-Lanka.
Many of these countries also had many European tourists at the time of the disaster. With a magnitude of between 9. 1 and 9. 3 it was one of the deadliest disasters ever recorded and had the longest duration of faulting ever observed of between 8 minutes 3 seconds and 10 minutes, It caused the whole planet to vibrate as much as 1cm and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Thousands of people lost their lives. Due to the scale of the disaster tourism died down to a near zero so to encourage people back to the area tour operators were offering many cut rate packages.
In some area of Thailand such as Phuket over 15% of hotels closed down as many tourists had lost confidence in the area and feared another tsunami. Bodies were laid everywhere, over beaches, in the sea etc and because of this and the heat disease started to spread from the dead bodies, the hospitals were all full so were having to turn people away and there was no help from the surrounding countries because the huge scale of the disaster meant they were in exactly the same position. Many people died because of the lack of help and bled to death.
While some hotels were able to open shortly after the disaster the tourists were not coming. It would take a long time to encourage them to come back. After contacting a uk travel company I was told ‘a lot of companies would have to reduce prices to try to encourage bookings and for people to go back to the area- there is a lot of pressure within the holiday companies to rebook people if their holiday has been cancelled or affected in anyway. (The travel companies are required to offer free cancellation or a free amendment if their holiday is affected significantly by the disaster).
Although there is a reduction in tourists until people again regain their confidence back there is usually an increase in aid travel-people who go to try and help recovery efforts. ) 9 months after the Tsunami, tourism officials and travellers to Thailand found a mixed reaction to the disaster in that cut rate packages had little affect on their decision to travel to the area and instead the tourists that did travel to Thailand cited the area’s natural beauty, residents welcoming attitude, and the good value for money as the reason to visit.
Morbid curiosity was not among the factors, these travellers said they relied heavily on internet information, backed by the expertise of travel agents and word of mouth. On the other hand the travellers who were still not keen on visiting the area were particularly concerned about another tsunami hitting the area. (Source Thailand Tourism) Many Europeans were also concerned about travelling to Thailand and were choosing other resorts as the promised Tsunami warning system was still incomplete.
People were unsure about water sanitation due to the dead bodies being found in the sea and in regards to that felt uncomfortable about enjoying themselves where so many people had lost their lives. Even more than a year after the Tsunami, many local residents and workers had still not recovered from the Tsunami and the trauma of losing their friends, family, livelihood an their homes. Many of the beach resorts still had extremely low occupancy rates and many of the recovery efforts were not evenly distributed, e. g. especially the resort of Khoa Lak in Phang Nga which was struggling due to unclear government recovery strategies THA or Thai hotels association confirmed that members in the Andaman region had suffered from the lack of tourists. Although tourists arrived in Thailand they chose resorts such as Koa Chang rather than areas such as Phuket. After the tsunami the THA participated in road shows and travel shows to communicate with overseas travel suppliers and media reporters that Thailand is safe and fully prepared to welcome any overseas travellers. Sources Thai hotels association) Could there have been less damage? I believe so; there was lack of an effective tsunami warning system which could have contributed to loss of live which damaged many communities. The key to surviving such a disaster is people’s ability to receive early warnings so they can act quickly and move to higher ground. Some countries had destroyed barrier reefs in order to allow shipping traffic or fish farming and this would reduce the natural barrier that the reefs can provide.
Mangrove trees had been cut down on shorelines to make way for hotels, bars, and housing. These trees could have helped to reduce the impact. It really is a wonder anyone survived, even some of the survivors wonder if it is a good thing they survived or not. After gathering evidence the most surprising find is the weak influence of Thailand’s ‘fun package’, tourists were neutral towards the low-cost fun package and instead tourists were attracted to Thailand’s value, nature and people.
Even in the severely hit resorts such as Khao Lak, low cost tour packages did not particularly help attract tourists. ‘Hotel executives commented that discounting was not their only strategy to bring business back, but instead they relieved on their aggressive marketing campaigns, advertising on the internet and above all word of mouth’ (source THA) My results suggest that providing discounts is not always a good strategy –especially in the absence of marketing information that indicates a need for price cuts.
The plight of the many affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response with the worldwide community donating more than 14 billion USD (2004) in humanitarian aid to the affected areas. It is estimated over 8 thousand people lost their lives with many more injured. ‘As previously mentioned the two main sectors affected were the fishing and tourism industries which a lot of Thai people rely heavily on. many lost their jobs in various part of Thailand with hotels and bars closing down, they were dependant on this to make a living.
The importance of safety and security cannot be ignored. The governments installing of a Tsunami safety system would be a waste if people did not know how to use i. e. in mid December, a early warning system which was installed on some beaches, had gone off accidently, worse foreign tourists heard the siren but had no idea what it was or what to do because they had received no instructions. Given doubt about this false alarm, most hotels now just have rehearsals, fliers or signs and information in each guest room to inform guests about the tsunami warning system’. Source Thai press) I believe Tourist destinations can recover from even a severe natural disaster as long as what caused the disaster is addressed, in which in this case building confidence among the European tourists the installation of the Tsunami warning system would help to build travellers confidence, and ensure a certain level of safety and security has been achieved. In addition to this tourism recovery depends on the efficiency of tourism partners to repair facilities and an effective marketing campaign that clearly confirms that the destination is safe and once again open for business.
Although tourism in Thailand as improved a great deal I think the impact of the Tsunami will always be on people’s minds e. g. in November 2009 Thai astrologers had made a prediction that a tsunami would revisit the Andaman coast, which of course impacted the bookings of hotels in beach resorts such as Phuket, although these prediction were unfulfilled, they had the biggest affect on Thai and Asian bookings.
An industry source said, ‘usually in the peak season hotel occupancy rates are set about 80% where as this caused a massive slump by approx 20% down to 60% ‘(source The Nation) However following this things are now looking up for Thailand with the Tourism Authority expecting 14 million foreign tourists to visit Thailand in 2011, with an estimated 90 million trips by domestic holidaymakers. It believes tourism will enjoy total revenue of B1969 billion in 2011. The number of inbound tourists will represent a 5. 6% increase from the previous year which expected 13. million visitors. How has weakness been dealt with? Engineers have been designing structures that give less resistance to the force of water, rather than being obstacles and also the installation of the warning system. After gathering information I can honestly say my biggest fear would be tsunami rather than earthquake. I know the tragedy of the Tsunami on 26th December 2004 has caused interest among people I know and has definitely triggered a need amongst me and my family to find out more information about the disaster. References: Thai hotels association, Thailand tourism, Thai press, The nation.