Tourism is a very sensitive sector and is one of the first, if not the first, to be hit hard during natural disasters. And yet, these have become more and more frequent recently. What can destination leaders do to mitigate the negative impacts?
The devastating tsunami in 2004, the deadly earthquakes taking place all around the world, and the hurricanes that hit with increasing magnitude and frequency, have had a major impact on the tourism economies of these destinations. The tourism sector is the first to pay the high price, apart from the catastrophic and frequent loss of human life.
The economic impact problem is exacerbated as it hits small businesses which provide ancillary services such as food and recreation. Sometimes that actual damage is minimal – but the non-stop news cycle footage of these occurrences in real-time, leaves an indelible impression on the traveler’s mind.
According to a report (European Environment Agency, 2018), Europe is facing an annual economic loss burden of €12 billion as a result of extreme weather events. Hurricane Katrina forced over 18,000 businesses to close permanently. It took over a decade for New Orleans to climb back up to its pre-Katrina visitation of 10.1 million tourists.
Some problems, while occurring on an annual basis have taken on a more devastating impact in recent years due to global climate change. Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency earlier this summer because of the Red Tide. This naturally occurring phenomenon has been made worse in recent years by its combination with man-made pollutants and creates an annual estimated economic loss to the tourism industry of over $82 million (Limitone, 2018).
But even with these problems, tourism authorities and Destination Management Organizations want visitors and local residents to know that their stakeholders are open for business. They need to be able to update information, in real time, across every distribution platform.
Facebook might help you “check-in” but Google certainly won’t update the open status of a beach, hotel, or restaurant in real time. A 24-hour “Breaking News” onslaught about hurricanes and flooding do not come back a week later and report who is open for business, and where they are located, and DMOs are too understaffed to undertake this Herculean task.
Built into the Outdooractive system are a number of tools that allow, at the touch of a button, our partners to inform potential visitors of the actual status of not only trails & routes, but of businesses as well. Our latest development allows our partners to close off, or issue warnings, regarding entire sections of a destination so that everyone – visitors, stakeholders, media – can know, in real time, what’s open, what’s closed, and how the situation will evolve.
Our current conditions technology allows destinations to mitigate the negative impact that an emergency situation can have by providing a transparent picture of what is really happening on the ground and in the communities that are affected – or not.