Author : BEST Education Network
Year : 2005 | Think Tank V

1. Introduction

Crisis events have undermined the viability and marketability of tourism regions and have been a fact of life for many years. Wars, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, crime waves, epidemics, economic and business collapses have all impacted on the propensity of people to travel and their choice of destination since the beginning of mass tourism in the 1960s. Security threats to the tourists encompass every aspect of the tourism cycle and tourists are frequently chosen as soft and newsworthy targets for politically and criminally motivated attacks.  

“A crisis is any unexpected event that affects traveler confidence in a destination and interferes with the ability to continue operating normally.” Crises can be classified as natural and anthropogenic. Natural crises include SARS, Mad Cow Disease, Tsanumis and Hurricanes. Anthropogenic crises would include the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Port Arthur Massacre, the Iraq war. Crisis management strategies are needed to help retain the confidence of travellers and the travel industry, and to minimize the impact of a crisis on the destination.

Prior to 2000 there was only a handful of books and journal articles addressing the subject. Until the 21 st century, a significant professional focus on risk and crisis management was primarily confined to the airline industry, travel insurers, a small coterie of specialist management consultants and very few tourism academics.

Even though the increasingly frequent crises since 2001 have given rise to large amounts of academic research and professional writings on the topic, we identified a need for a more comprehensive research agenda on crisis management in tourism destinations. This document summarizes the outcome of the Research Think Tank of the BEST Education Network held at the University of West Indies, Jamaica in June 2005.Approximately 15 academics and professionals met over several days to identify the major issues to be included in such an agenda. The remainder of this document summarizes in point form the six categories of research that emerged from the deliberations. They are:

  1. Clarification of definitions, concepts and typologies
  2. Risk identification and assessment
  3. Managing recovery and restoration
  4. Marketing and promotion during and after the crisis
  5. Rebuilding the destination
  6. Sustainable tourism development from a risk management perspective

Many research topics were discussed in each of these categories. The most important ones and the ones with the greatest concensus are presented below in point form.

1. Clarification of definitions, concepts and typologies

 A need for clearer definitions of the terms of crisis and disaster was identified. For research to develop in this field, a commonality of terms and concepts is needed.

  • Definitions of terms such as: risk, hazard, crisis, disaster etc. are needed.
  • Tourism destinations face various typologies of crisis. Examples are: severity of impact, geographic spread of impact, type of impact, source of impact etc. Secondary research to identify and classify a comprehensive list of typologies would allow the field to move forward more easily.  

2. Risk identification and assessment

Very little is known about the nature of tourism crises. The literature has classified crises into pre-event, prodromal, emergency, intermediate, long term and resolution. However there are more dimensions that can clarify and provide deeper understanding of the nature of risk and crisis for a destination. The Think Tank suggested that more work is needed on:

  • How risks affecting tourism are identified, assessed, reduced, avoided or transferred.
  • How risks are forecast
  • Who identifies and assesses these risks
  • How these risks are communicated to tourism stakeholders (government, industry, destination managers, community, tourists) is worthy of more research.
  • The distinction between real and perceived risks for different stakeholders.
  • How important is safety in destination or activity choice

3. Managing Recovery and Restoration

There is growing pressure for governments to assist tourist victims of crises quickly, demanding solidarity, flexibility and expertise. For example, the World Tourism Organization has a Crisis Action Team made up of the world’s top experts in the area of communications, marketing and promotion and safety and security.

The research issues pertinent to this topic are:

  • Analysis of roles and responsibilities in the recovery process
  • Exploration of ways to restore confidence in the destination; what are the roles of different stakeholders?
  • What role does perception play in the recovery cycle?
  • What are the forces that shape perception in a tourism crisis?
  • What is the role of travel advisories, and what is their real impact on travel behaviour?

4. Marketing and promotion during and after the crisis

After the crisis is over, and sometimes during the crisis, decisions must be made regarding if and how to market and promote the destination. Specific research questions are:

  • Exploration of the ethical responsibilities in marketing and promotion activity during crises, including corporate responsibility.
  • Should destinations be marketed during a crisis ?
  • How does this marketing and promotion differ compared to ‘normal’ times ?
  • Is there a role for de-marketing?
  • Exploration of the media’s role in restoring confidence
  • Understanding the impact of crisis on destination reputation and image
  • Exploration of strategic marketing approaches to destination crisis and management

5. Rebuilding the destination

The infrastructures and superstructures of destinations are often in ruin after a crisis – particularly after a natural disaster. Research to assist in rebuilding the destination includes:

  • Tools to assess tourism’s role in the future socio-economic development of the region – should the tourism industry be re-built to same scale and type?
  • Assessment of different scenarios for tourism product and market development and the necessary planning processes
  • Analysis of sources of financing, humanitarian aid and investment for re-building
  • Understanding the role of communication methods and technologies in rebuilding
  • The roles of different tourism stakeholders in the recovery process – including the community
  • How the tourist industry can engage with other industries in the recovery process.

6. Sustainable tourism development from a risk management perspective

The Think Tank participants felt there was a need for a meta-analytical approach to risk management for tourism. This has its own research implications and the following were identified as topics for research:

  • Integration of systems approach into research on crisis management
  • Consideration of sectoral balance – both within the economy and within the industry
  • Integrations of life cycle concepts and time into research
  • Exploration of the importance of tourism recovery to community quality of life
  • The need to develop integrative case studies to share success stories and failures, and to identify lessons for destination stakeholders

Final Comments

This research agenda is presented in outline form to provide interested parties with an overview of the most important issues raised at the Think Tank. There are many different research approaches and methodologies to address these questions, and it is hoped that this agenda will foster collaborative research on these critical issues.

List of Articles
No. Subject Date
5 Learning for Sustainable Tourism Dec 12, 2013

How do we know that people have learned not just about environment and economic sustainability but about equity and sustainability How do learners from different cultural and social backgrounds learn about sustainable tourism? What does sustainability mean in different cultural co...

Author: BEST Education Network 

Year: 2011 | Think Tank XI 

4 Networking for Sustainable Tourism [11] Oct 14, 2013

Introduction The research agenda workshop at the 2010 BEST EN Think Tank "Networking for Sustainable Tourism" provided delegates with an opportunity to consider the conference topic with a view of exploring future research opportunities and needs in that area. True to the overall ...

Author: BEST Education Network 

Year: 2010 | Think Tank X 

3 Innovation in the Private Sector [63] Oct 14, 2013

Introduction Approximately 15 academics and industry representatives met over two days to identify the key themes that could or should be included in this research agenda. While different interpretations of the term “innovation” were discussed initially to clarify the terminology ...

Author: BEST Education Network 

Year: 2007 | Think Tank VII 

2 Corporate Social Responsibility for Sustainable Tourism [11] Oct 10, 2013

PRELIMINARY RESEARCH AGENDA Definition Define CSR in the context of sustainable tourism (scope/limits) Different stakeholders´ definitions of CSR Different cultures’/regions’ definitions of CSR Ethical bases Examination of underlying ethical approaches and belief systems Who shou...

Author: BEST Education Network 

Year: 2006 | Think Tank VI 

» Managing Risk and Crises for Sustainable Tourism [4] Oct 10, 2013

1. Introduction Crisis events have undermined the viability and marketability of tourism regions and have been a fact of life for many years. Wars, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, crime waves, epidemics, economic and business collapses have all impacted on the propensity o...

Author: BEST Education Network 

Year: 2005 | Think Tank V