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Emergency Management and Tourism – An Emerging Link

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The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is rolling out a major initiative for 2011 to better integrate emergency management and tourism resources in an effort to both enhance the safety of travelers around the world and improve the effectiveness of existing emergency management operations.

The organization recognizes the strong historical link between emergency management systems and airports/airlines, but in response to a growing number of natural and man-made disasters that have had tremendous impact on travelers and tourism-dependent economies, the UNWTO project is seeking to expand that link to include more hotels and tour operators.

Examples of Emergency Management at Work

The 2010 Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption in Iceland is a prime example of the disparate emergency management capabilities of air travel operators and those providing lodging. When the eruption disrupted air travel across the world, airlines quickly implemented a published contingency plan for disasters of that type, but the response among the hotels and resorts in the affected areas was much more sluggish and disorganized. There was no formal linkage between emergency management officials and those proprietors willing to provide emergency lodging, leaving most stranded travelers to fend for themselves in the search for accommodation.

The UNWTO’s goal is also to enlist the help of hotels and tour operators in the identification of victims and those displaced by emergency situations. Those managing hotel occupancy and organized tour participation can provide emergency managers with names and other methods of identification for people in disaster areas, but this exchange of information has historically been unorganized and informal. By more officially integrating these groups into the emergency management process, disaster response officials can improve search and rescue efforts and more quickly remove survivors from harms way.

Besides giving emergency management leaders more tools for disaster response, greater collaboration can pay dividends for the tourism industry as well. Hotels and resorts are frequently built in areas that are especially prone to natural disaster, most notably on the oceanfront. When disasters like hurricanes or tsunamis do strike, devastated properties are often rebuilt on precisely the same land with minimal changes made in design and construction to mitigate future catastrophe. A better and more formal relationship with emergency management leaders can help tourism developers find ways to more adequately prepare for and more quickly recover from disasters without affecting their attraction to tourists. Also, if tourism communities can demonstrate a greater ability to handle and recover from emergency situations, their reputations among the traveling public will improve thereby enhancing tourist business.

These areas and others will be the focus of the UNWTO 2011 tourism and emergency management initiative with the goal of creating a stronger, mutually beneficial relationship between emergency management leaders and officials across the tourism industry.

Anna Maria College offers an emergency management specialization through their Master’s in Public Administration degree. With the online program you can share in the experiences of Anna Maria College’s industry leaders and from students across the country. Find out more about the Master’s in Public Administration Degree with a specialization in Emergency Management.

In today’s competitive landscape, an online master’s degree in Public Administration with an Emergency Management specialization can give your career an invaluable edge. To learn more about the MPA Emergency Management Specialization programs call us at 877-265-3201 or request information.

For more information about the Fire Science program at Anna Maria College, visit


  1. Unknown. “Integration of Tourism into National Emergency Structures and Processes.” (accessed 10/27/2023).

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