With tragic images of the effect of the earthquake in Nepal all over the news one feels for those who have lost loved ones or got seriously injured. Such disasters do however have another impact – on tourism.
Infrastructure and historic monuments have been destroyed, halting tourism which accounts for 7 percent of Nepal’s jobs and 8 percent of the country’s economy.
Many of the ancient temples that make out the core of this country’s tourism industry suffered extensive damage. The quake destroyed nearly half of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kathmandu and triggered avalanches on Mount Everest, killing 19.
“It’s been devastating. Their tourism economy has obviously come to a halt,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific economist with IHS. “I don’t know when it would be realistic for tourists to again visit Nepal.” (seattletimes.com)
Even though another earthquake of such extend is unlikely, it is just normal for people to be cautious and perhaps choose another travel destination. Not too long ago we have seen how tourism figures to South Africa declined because of Ebola in West Africa and it is difficult to blame tourists for playing it safe. Do read more on Discouraging Tourism Destinations.
Just imagine the effect the 2004-Tsunami had on Thailand. And while it is possible to recover from such disasters – the holiday islands of Phuket and Phi-Phi are excellent examples – the short term effect of extreme natural disasters on tourism is quite devastating:
1. immediate income from tourism comes to a halt
2. tourism attractions are damaged or demolished
3. rebuilding takes time and money and in some cases, it is impossible
4. there are less tourism-related jobs
5. financial difficulty for local communities that depend on tourism income
6. tourists are hesitant to return because of the negative perception and perceived danger
While we have no control over such natural disasters, it is a pity that some human behaviour such as political unrest and lately in South Africa, xenophobia, have an impact on tourism as well.
My thoughts are with the people of Nepal – on the short term to get over the immediate effects and in the longer run, to re-establish their tourism industry.