Tourism stakeholders can contribute to disaster management in different ways, depending on the stage of the life cycle. A study conducted by Muskat et al. (2015), which examined the case of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2011, delivers valuable insight about the integration of tourism in disaster recovery management (see Figures in Disaster Management Life Cycles). The following paragraphs will highlight some of the findings.
Disaster phase (emergency response)
According to Muskat et al. (2015, p.106), tourist accommodation providers respond very effectively to the emergency phase: “Hotels are usually well equipped and need to be able to prepare and store food; hence they were able to accommodate and feed large groups of people in the immediate aftermath”. Muskat et al. (2015) identified the core business – provision of shelter and food – and the specific organizational culture of the hospitality sector as valuable enablers in responding to disasters. Hotel managers believe that hospitality staff has a particular skill set which is practical and effective in chaotic situations: “Hospitality employees are trained and experienced in improvising; they are caring and protective of their hotel guests, and above all are experienced enough to be stress-resistant. Hotel managers are also usually well-connected with other businesses and the community” (Muskat et al., 2015, p.106). In the emergency phase, people with this particular skill set, most of them employed in the service sector, emerged as leaders. In addition to hospitality staff, Muskat et al. (2015) also identified nurses and teachers as emergent leaders as they undertook a pivotal role in emergency disaster response management.
Post-disaster phase (short-term response)
According to Muskat et al. (2015, p.107), this stage was “characterized by the restoration of infrastructure components (e.g. water and electricity), people being moved to temporary housing and the rebuilding of public transport”. Hotels would still host disaster victims, but also builders, construction workers, and volunteers. After a couple of months, when the construction workers started to leave, the first tourists arrived. Although they were identified as “dark tourists”, they were not perceived as sensation-seeking observers, more as volunteer tourists who had come to help. “Their travel motivation was perceived as helping in the residents’ healing process; their willingness to learn about the disaster, its impact on the area, was regarded as a short-term psychological remedy” (Muskat et al., 2015, p.107) as they ensured that the survivors were not forgotten. However, this positive perception of dark tourists might be culture-specific or a matter of respect. After Hurricane Katrina, the residents of New Orleans got so fed up with gawking tourists on tour buses passing through their neighborhood that they erected a ban zone around Lower 9th Ward (Plaisance, 2012).
In the transition from the short-term response towards the long-term recovery phase, the focus is on change, energizing the community and overcoming depression. The main issues at this stage were psychological difficulties of the community and reluctance towards further change. Additionally, hotel managers reported “a ‘shortage of staff’ (hotel managers; volunteers, transport/tourism operators)”, which slowed down the recovery (Muskat et al., 2015, p.108). The community members needed to be reactivated and re-energized before they could transit to the next phase. Muskat et al. (2015) explain how tourism had an impact at this stage: “First, the arrival of dark tourists and the offering of story-telling tours helped the community to heal, feel empowered and stimulated. Second, tourist and residential events brought people together” (Muskat et al., 2015, p.108). The collective approach, in particular, the forming of groups, seems to have assisted the community to overcome depression. As a result, it healed the individual and energized community members to collaborate and move on into the next phase.
Recovery phase (long-term response)
Although many businesses had been damaged or extinguished, new business opportunities and ideas emerged. “Social entrepreneurs started to invest in the region and highly qualified volunteers considered staying and starting new businesses in the region. Innovative ideas and ventures were created. ‘New business ideas around tourism’ (volunteer) were developed, such as bed and breakfast facilities and small self-sufficient farming projects (Muskat et al., 2015, p.109).” Passion and cross-cultural skills were considered important virtues for people engaged in the recovery phase. Another positive outcome Muskat et al. (2015) observed was that the extent of the disaster led to an improvement of collaboration among tourism stakeholders in the region.
Pre-disaster phase (preparedness)
The aim of this phase is to learn and build knowledge from the previous phases, to mitigate the risk and decrease the vulnerability of the region by preparing for possible future disasters. “The implications for disaster planning and preparedness are that tourism needs to be better integrated into the disaster management process. Moreover, hospitality managers needed to be incorporated into the community emergency management” (Muskat et al., 2015, p.110).