Integrating tourism and emergency management
The UNWTO Review Meeting on the Integration of Tourism and Emergency Management (Mount Macedon, Australia, 22-23 September) gathered major tourism players to present examples of best practice and share ongoing challenges ahead of an upcoming report on effective crisis handling.
In a collaborative commitment to improving the handling of emergencies, representatives of all key segments of the tourism sector, including airlines, travel insurers and tourism operators, joined with emergency management experts, such as volunteer rescue organizations and government policy planners. The Review Meeting, organized in collaboration with the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism of Australia, the Australian Emergency Management Institute, the University of Technology of Sydney and Bournemouth University, also counted on the support of the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Dr. Dirk Glaesser, Coordinator of the UNWTO Risk and Crisis Management Programme, welcomed the increasing trend for integration to be gradually filtering into government policy making, but recognized an inconsistency across destinations. Particularly in developing countries with a high level of economic dependency on tourism, it is important to establish proper mechanisms preventing and mitigating the impacts of negative events. Indicating a globally coordinated approach to risk and crisis management, the UNWTO Tourism Emergency Response Network (TERN) initiative contributes to sustainability and coordination at the global level, encouraging cross-sectoral collaboration in identifying and responding to major risks, hazards and crises worldwide.
Speakers shared valuable experiences of emergency response, such as this year’s incidents in Japan, floods and bushfires in Australia and developments in the Middle East and North Africa. Case studies addressed challenges such as the repatriation of travelers, the dissemination of important security information and victim, consumer and media relations. A recurring difficulty recognized was overcoming negative safety perceptions with concrete facts about specific crisis-affected areas.
The meeting served as a valuable face-to-face knowledge exchange and review of the current UNWTO study aimed to facilitate optimal coordination between the tourism sector and emergency management agencies from the government and private sectors. The study recommends considering tourism as an integral element of risk, crisis and recovery planning. Preliminary findings reveal that despite a high level of aspiration for an integrative approach to risk and crisis management, countries still demonstrate limited implementation.
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