Charlotte & Edward (2004) assert that safety of tourist destinations plays an important role in enhancing tourism. Safety is a multifaceted concept that includes both human-made and natural hazards. After September 11 attacks, the tourism industry has experienced a paradigm shift towards a focus on the safety of destinations from events like kidnapping, terrorism acts, health and safety risks, natural hazards and nuclear power plants hazards (Pearce 2011). This is evident as governments are embarking on the issuance of travel advisories to some designated countries or regions within countries. In light of this view, it is vital to assess the impacts of the current earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactors issues on the tourism industry in Japan. These recent events have imposed significant effects on the security and safety of Japan as a safe tourist destination (Youcheng & Abraham 2011). This has been apparent in the decline in travel towards the country and the issuance of travel bans on parts of Japan and increasing cases of cancelled bookings. Pearce (2011) argues that the impacts of the recent events on tourism are heightened by the scepticism, relating how the Japanese government is responding to the crisis, especially with regard to its failure to monitor the amount of radiation present in soil, air and water. Such doubts on the efficiency of Japanese government in handling the crisis has resulted in increased doubts among travellers, aiming at visiting the country (Belson 2011). The safety and risks, associated with visiting Japan, are perceived to outweigh the incentives that the players in the tourism sector are using to ensure that business resumes to normalcy (Youcheng & Abraham 2011). The confidence of tourists is extremely shaken in the case of radiation leakages from the nuclear power plants in the country. This research paper discusses how destination safety affects tourism, with a focus on the case of Japan due to the recent tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor issues.
The vulnerable nature of the tourism industry to risk, crises and disaster has been evident for a long time (Lawton 1997). Historical records present ample evidence to hold up the assertion that the tourism industry has been affected significantly by varying types of disasters including natural, biological, human-made and technological disasters. For instance, the World Tourist Organization labels the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 as the “greatest catastrophe ever documented in the world of tourism” (Pearce 2011). A similar case was the impacts, associated with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Such disasters do not only impose fears on the tourists but also disrupts the functioning of the entire tourism industry. This is because such events have imposed significant threats on the security and safety of tourists, employees in the sector and the host communities, who are the core stakeholders in the tourism industry. In the case of Japanese tourism industry, the recent tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor issues serve to indicate the vulnerability of the country towards disasters that can affect the sustainability of its tourism industry in the end. Safety and security are essential in guaranteeing quality tourism. Pearce (2011) maintains that the success or failure of Japan, as a tourist destination, relies on its ability to ensure that it is safe and secure for travellers. The changing attitudes of travellers and tourists in the wake of hazardous events indicate the manner, in which travellers tend to make their choices, basing on their fear of insecurity. In light of this view, the World Tourist Organization reported that global tourist arrivals reduced by 1.3 percent after September 11 (Matilla 2004). Such effects are likely to be spiralled in Japan if the government fails to handle the situation effectively, in a manner that can rebuild the trust and confidence among tourists and travellers, visiting the country (Charlotte & Edward 2004). The fundamental argument is that travellers are weighing the costs and benefits, associated with visiting Japan. An undisputable fact is that the costs, associated with the recent events of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation issues, outweigh the marginal gains of visiting the country (Pearce 2011).
The geographical orientation of Japan increases its vulnerability to natural disasters such as earthquakes and disasters. According to Lawton (1997), the tourism sector in the country has an obligation to defend itself and has a legitimate anticipation that the government will deploy appropriate strategies to guarantee safety from such hazards. Therefore, it is in the own interest of Japanese tourism industry to bring together its efforts and liaise with the core stakeholders, the government, host communities and law enforcement (Youcheng & Abraham 2011). The industry has to acknowledge that when the country is safe from such hazards, then, the sustainability of travel and tourism industry is guaranteed. The resiliency of global tourism sector towards natural and human initiated hazards is increasing. Pearce (2011) argues that Japan can achieve this through effective management of such hazards in four distinct phases, including readiness, reduction, response and recovery. In this case, readiness entails ensuring that tourism businesses and destinations have effective contingency plans and actions to act in response to anticipated hazards. The core focus of response includes speed, precision and verifiability. Reduction entails the establishment of special context for the problem at hand. Recovery is the most significant phase in guaranteeing sustainability and competitiveness of Japanese tourism industry. Recovery aims at restoring the reputation of the tourism industry and assuring the stakeholders of the normalcy of the situation (Youcheng & Abraham 2011). Since the most damaging impact, associated with such hazards, is centred on perceptions, it is vital that the recovery phase adopts effective methodologies. Recovery is the most challenging phase since it entails the restoration of confidence among the tourists. Japan embarked on eliminating the negative perceptions and revitalising its tourism industry, using 10,000 free airline tickets to the country if they posted positive remarks on blogs and media, regarding their visit (Pearce 2011).
In conclusion, it is arguably evident that the Japanese tourism industry was affected significantly by the recent occurrences of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation leakages. This serves to indicate the vulnerability of the tourism industry towards such events, and the significance of the responsibility of the government in the recovery of the tourism industry. In addition, it is vital for the tourism industry to have comprehensive knowledge, regarding the various methods, used by travellers and tourists to gauge safety and security of a destination. Scepticism, regarding the capability of the government to contain the crisis, should be eliminated; this helps to rebuild the confidence and the reputation of the tourism industry.
This research paper aimed at exploring the impacts of natural and human-made hazards on the tourism industry, with a focus on the Japanese tourism industry. Currently, Japan is recovering from the impacts of the earthquake and tsunami and the recent radiation leakages. The research process used secondary sources documented in books and articles. The research aimed at discussing the tourism issue in Japan and the potential solutions that can be implemented by the core stakeholders in the tourism industry including the government, tourism operators and the host communities. Comparative literature was also used in case studies similar to problem facing Japan; this was aimed at enhancing knowledge base during the literature search. The literature search involved the following steps:
- Searching the web for relevant articles and books discussing the topic: this involved the use of key search words such as, “safety and security in tourism”, “the impact of destination safety on tourism”, and “how natural hazards and man-made hazards affect tourism”
- Searching the library for relevant literature that discusses the problems and solutions
- Analysis of the sources to identify the issue and the potential solutions that can be employed to guarantee sustainability and competitiveness of the tourism industry