‘After the 2004 tsunami, I was invited by the national tourist board to visit Thailand: in areas severely affected by the disaster, local people told me they needed tourism to return as soon as possible’
ight now, communities in Florida are trying to rebuild after the damage caused by Hurricane Ian. In Fort Myers, which relies heavily on leisure travellers, the tourism board initially urged visitors to stay away. Now it is publishing updated lists of open accommodations and attractions.
For countries in crisis, losing tourism can pile one disaster atop another. Whether we travel to such destinations is clearly a personal choice. But before we do so, we also need to listen to local opinion and to consider government guidance and issues of practicality.
After the 2004 tsunami, I was invited by the national tourist board to visit Thailand. The international media was requesting that people stay away. Yet in areas severely affected by the disaster, local people told me they needed tourism to return as soon as possible.
As natural disasters become all too frequent (as we are seeing now with the flooding in Pakistan and Australia), the issue is coming into sharper focus.
In some cases, there is little choice but to stay away. Visiting a country or region experiencing conflict is rarely a good idea. There may be very little infrastructure, travel insurance is unlikely to cover you, and your presence may well be a burden. Not to mention the personal dangers you may face.
That said, in places such as Ukraine, tourism can pave the way towards economic recovery when the guns fall silent. Ukraine’s domestic tourism is starting to rebuild, with reports that Ukrainians are making trips into the Carpathian Mountains and other natural areas that have a lower risk of attacks. But to aid its recovery, the country will need international tourists to return as soon as it is safe.
Rwanda and the Balkans are inspiring examples of how tourism can help communities to rebuild their environmental and social identity after conflict.
I trekked in the highlands of Ethiopia in early 2007. The media was reporting a food crisis in the Horn of Africa, but it affected only parts of the country. If I had taken the news at face value, communities I was able to support through my trip would have lost out.
This is an excerpt from an article by Justin Francis published earlier by iNews.