International Tourism And The Natural Disaster Impacts Tourism Essay
According to Page and Connell 2009, p. 644, international tourism is an activity that involves people travelling to another country or a destination outside of their normal residence and residing for more than a day or at least a day with a given purpose. With the previous and recent events of natural disasters that have continually to take place across the world, there have been some challenges that the tourist generating and destination areas have faced. These natural disasters have brought about devastating impacts to these areas which entirely or partly depend on tourism as a source of generating income to survive. It is important to note that natural disasters continue to bring about destructive impacts to the supply and demand of both generating and destination areas, as well as affecting the normal lives of people who are forced to adjust to these changes after a disaster. This essay will consider previous natural disasters that have occurred internationally and will examine the impacts it has on the supply and demand side of tourism with given examples. There are three categories in this essay. Firstly, it will focus on previous natural disasters that have taken place internationally, and then individually for each natural disaster, it will consider the impacts on the supply side; such as accommodation, transportation and attractions, and then it will examine the impacts on the demand side; such as personal income, destination image and health risks. Finally, this essay will end with a conclusion that natural disasters have brought about destructive impacts to the supply and demand of international tourism, and that there are simple, yet constructive ways to reduce the impacts.
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First of all, different types of natural disasters have occurred around the world. Some previous ones included tsunamis and earthquakes. To begin with, a tsunami is a destructive wave that can travel at great heights and speed and is likely to damage areas near the coast. They tend to be unpredictable, and this can create difficult situations for those who are not prepared, which can result in deaths and cause destruction to surroundings. The tsunami that took place in the Sumatra Islands in Indonesia in 2004 is a clear example of how dangerous the impacts of a tsunami can be (Jain, Agarwal & Hirani, 2005, p. 15).There have been cases where people were caught in a tsunami, and because of its unpredictable nature, unfortunate deaths have taken place. According to Jain et al. (2005, p. 15), "The recent Sumatra earthquake ... the most devastating tsunami ... causing a death toll of more than 150,000". Therefore, tsunamis are dangerous and will continue to have devastating impacts unless necessary precautions are taken to warn and advise people to move to higher grounds for safety (Jain et al., 2005, p. 17).
In addition, earthquakes are also dangerous and are quite frequent. They are basically underground movements of the earth that travel up to the surface of the land or sea, which can trigger other natural disasters like a tidal wave. An earthquake can be destructive, and the impact it creates has a direct effect on the environment as well as on the country itself (Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], 2011). An example, where an earthquake occurred would be in the Izmit city near Turkey, where Beirman stated
Casualties were estimated to be 20 000 dead and 50 000 injured.... According to a UN report, 350 000 housing units and business premises were damaged or destroyed. (2003, p. 162)
The impacts of earthquakes can destroy infrastructure such as roads and buildings as well as public utilities such as electricity and water supply, the victims involved are prone to falling objects, death and injury including financial losses (FEMA, 2011).
Second of all, the tourism supply is affected by natural disasters. With reference to Page and Connell's study (as cited in Sessa, 1983, p. 59) found that the aim of the supply part is to make services available to tourists so that the tourism demands can be satisfied. Supply, provides many services such as; accommodation and transportation. With reference to the accommodation and transportation service, they will first show how they were affected during the tsunami in Indonesia, while attractions will be used as a discussion for the earthquake disaster in Turkey.
The first supply is accommodation. Accommodation provides shelter for a tourist where he will be able to stay in while travelling to particular destinations near and abroad. The condition of the rooms provided should be comfortable and suitable in order to achieve a satisfied and happy guest, but if it was otherwise because of unsuitable room conditions then tourists will alternatively look for a better place to stay in while on holidays (Ahliya, 2010). For example, the accommodation in hotels and motels during the tsunami in Indonesia was badly affected, as close to "30 percent of room capacity was damaged" (Athukoral & Resosudarmo, n.d.) and even though some of the rooms were able to re-open for accommodation purposes, room occupancy rates were decreasing because of lack of infrastructure. This would lead to perishability, where expected numbers of rooms are to be sold within a time frame but the occupancy of rooms were less, resulting in financial loss (Walker, 2009, p. 11). Therefore, the condition of a room and its quality after a natural disaster will have an effect on tourists' choices and that will affect the financial wellbeing of the hotel and motel industry.
Moreover, transportation is another supply of tourism. It helps people move from one place to another with a form of transport, such as an aircraft, car, boat or even a bicycle. Although transportation helps tourists travel to various destinations, they are dependent on the geographic location and the nature of infrastructure such as roads, airport runway and bridges. Constant improvements in these areas will create accessibility to places that are difficult to get to (Sorupia, 2005, p. 1768). Natural disasters do have an impact on transportation. The Indonesian tsunami in 2004 destroyed many roads and other transportation routes; which limited the public from travelling. The airport being one of the major ports that brings in international tourists was affected, and aircrafts were restricted to travel at certain times only to transport medical and food resources to affected areas (Samii & Van, 2010). Damaged transportation network affects accessibility to areas and will be useless to those who cannot be helped, thus improvement and effective measures must be taken to strengthen the infrastructure system.
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Finally, attractions are another determining factor of supply. It is a simple reason as to why most tourists from various countries arrive at a destination, basically because of the natural as well as the cultural attractions that a destination has to offer (Gunn & Var, 2002, p. 1). According to Beirman (2003), Turkey is a country with its own unique natural and geographical beauty ranging from "desert to lush and fertile lands" (p. 157). However, it is located where earthquakes are likely to occur most of the time, and because of this, Turkey is prone to experience disastrous impacts of earthquakes (Beirman, 2003, p. 157). For example, damages to homes and industrial buildings were at a point of no return, but because of effective planning that took place after the earthquake, most of the attractions were back at its original state and the tourism sector in Turkey improved (Beirman, 2003, pp. 161-162). The attractions that a country has can be a major factor in increasing tourist numbers or it could be a detrimental factor that could force tourists to leave.
In fact, the demand side of tourism is also affected by the impacts of natural disasters. According to Page & Connell (as citied in Pearce, 1995), the demand concept is focussing on the reasons as to what does or does not motivate a tourist to travel to a destination. Some of these factors may be due to personal income, destination image and health risks.
First of all, personal income is one of the determining factors that influence a person in deciding whether to travel or not. With reference to price, if a person is able to afford travel expenses, then they are in a position to experience a destination and the attractions it offers, however, for those who cannot afford a holiday, it is a restricting factor that stops a person from travelling (Page & Connell, p. 53). To illustrate this, Turkey experienced a growth in tourist numbers towards the twenty first century. Regardless of its low currency rate, it was considered to be a suitable and affordable destination to visit and this attracted many tourists from around the world (Beirman, 2003, p. 161). So, the income of a person will determine the willingness to travel to places if it can be afforded.
Equally important, destination image is another factor that can also affect tourists' demand. This is simply, the way in which a tourist views a destination, whether it is a suitable place to travel to. Some perceptions can be influenced by the media and tourists can instantly change travel plans, especially if it is a negative one and this can affect the status of a destination region (Lexow & Edelheim, 2004, p. 52). For example, when the Izmit earthquake struck Turkey in 1999, there was coverage by the media which was showing how badly the country was affected by the earthquake. Yet, most of the information that the media circulated was later discovered to be biased and exaggerated, one such example would be the warning given out a day later by the British Travel agents where they were discouraging British tourists from visiting the largest city, Istanbul, assuming that the whole city was affected, however, only the east border was affected, while the inner part was not (Beirman, 2003, p. 165). Overall, the type of information that the media generate can be overstated and affect the tourists' perception, while the image of the destination can be affected as well.
Furthermore, health risks also contribute to the demand of tourism. Some of the major health issues involve communicable diseases and there is a chance that tourists are likely to get sick if visiting affected areas (Giacomelli, 2006, p. 12). For instance, when Indonesia experienced the Sumatra earthquake in 2004, there were many people including tourists who suffered from wound infections but only a few cases of communicable diseases were reported, compared to the high cases of infectious wound cases (Marres, Lange, Leenen & Hoepelman, 2006). Thus, travellers are bound to suffer from communicable diseases and wound injuries if they get caught in disaster affected areas.
Given these facts, natural disasters do affect the supply and demand of destination and generating tourism regions. Impacts on the supply side can range from accommodation, transportation and attractions, while the demand side includes personal income, destination image and health risks. The range of services as well as other external factors in a destination will affect the way tourists choose a place to visit. The tourism sector must not be ignored during a crisis even though it is vulnerable to unpredictable changes. Therefore it is important that necessary and simple precautions are practised to minimise the dangers of natural disasters so that tourists, locals and the tourism industry itself is safe.
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