Marketing recovery in businesses is essential especially in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries. It involves restoration of everything that has been lost because of a catastrophe or otherwise. A tsunami hit Thailand at one of its coastal beaches, affecting the tourism sector.
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This sector is one of Thailand’s economic backbones. For this reason, researchers included 250 travel agencies in a market research and collaborated with the government and the Tourism Authority of Thailand to establish a post tsunami-marketing plan to revive the tourism market. The marketing research, which mainly included advertising and promotions, attracted tourists increasing the number of tourists, though at a lower rate. Further, the assurance of safety by the government enabled the tourists to return to the affected areas.
However, there is still a need for the government to improve crisis management in the industry by designing physical infrastructures, which withstand the forces of such disasters when they happen. The travel agencies should also enhance awareness on the same to tourists.
Tourism industry has been one of the leading factors contributing to the economy of Thailand. This is because of the attractive features and hospitality of the people in the country. The industry has continued to grow over the years by approximately 20 per cent, and the number of tourists reaching 12 million in 2004.
On 26 December 2004, an earthquake, off the coast of Sumatra, triggered a tsunami that struck many countries throughout the Indian Ocean. The tsunami disaster affected both the infrastructure and human population, with 223,492 people losing their lives, other 43,320 declared as missing. 400,000 homes were destroyed, and more than 3,000 miles of roads and 118,000 fishing boats damaged.
With more than 8,000 people, half of them being tourists, dead or missing in Thailand’s Andaman Coast, the tourism sector was severely hit (Carlsen & Hughes 2007, pg.139).
Moreover, many restaurants and rooms were wiped out, coral reefs shattered, and white sand beaches were moved into coconuts groves. The disaster caused not only a destructive consequence to the people there but almost destroyed the tourism market in totality (Rittichainuwat 2006, p.396).
Following the disaster, the number of tourists decreased by 10 per cent, with potential tourists cancelling their bookings assuming that all the hotels were destroyed. This spurred researchers to come up with the Phuket Action Plan to restore the tourism sector, which was the source of income and employment in the country. For instance, in Phuket alone, 300,000 people were employed.
The researchers included tourism experts and several private and international organizations. The researchers aim was to assess the damages caused by the tsunami, to evaluate and adjust the impact and strategize on how to combat the crisis in the future.
- To restore the travel confidence among the foreign investors and tourists in the region
- To emphasize on the country’s flood prevention and control
- To study marketing strategy of travel agencies in the region
The population picked included 250 Phuket travel agencies who were either owners or marketing managers involved in the tourism industry. A sample size of 20 agencies, with more than 4 years of work experience in tourism, was used. Face-to-face interviews were used to get open-minded answers from the respondents about the marketing plan adjustment.
For many countries, tourism is a significant foreign exchange earner. It is for this reason that countries seek to preserve it and enhance all aspects that boost its production. Thailand is no different from these countries. As indicated by Rittichainuwat (2006, p.397), Thailand’s GDP consists of 6% tourism revenue with more than 300,000 jobs guaranteed throughout the year.
The peak season, which comes around October-November, creates an additional 20,000 jobs for locals as well as increasing the revenue collected to more than 7% of the GDP (Rittichainuwat 2006, p.399). This shows that any disastrous effects to the environment, as well as the locality, would adversely affect the way tourism is conducted in the area with loses being noted in all fronts.
For this reason, the Thailand Government put across more than 300 million bahts (Thai currency) to set up tsunami warning systems to ensure that the economy does not suffer from any other crisis like the one that hit the Andaman Coast in 2004.
As recorded by Carlsen and Hughes (2007, p.141), the Tsunami that hit the Indian ocean on the 24th of December 2004 was not anything that could be easily forgotten by those who suffered as its result. One of the areas that were hit and suffered substantial loses was the Andaman Coast of Thailand.
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This tsunami has to-date been recorded as the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. The areas, which were heavily affected, were Krabi, Phang-Nga, Ranong, Satun Trang, and Phuket. The disaster affected directly to the tourism industry especially Phuket, which resulted to fewer tourists and decreased revenue. In Phuket, the total number of deaths was 262, injured persons amounting to 1,111 and 700 missing. Such incidents are amongst those that the government is trying to do away with by setting up tsunami warning stations.
Further, there is a need to create a recovery procedure that ensures the country gets back to its feet fast enough incase the disaster hits again. Carlsen (2006, p.70) encourages governments to look at several options and criteria that can be used to safeguard the tourism hotspots and ensure that the country does not lose on its share of international travels.
For instance, it has been noted that a simple flooding issue can lead to more than a 15% decline in international bookings meaning that the country loses a lot in terms of revenue (Carlsen 2006, p.73). Further, the economy suffers from such a negative incident. Therefore, measures to safeguard this valuable sector need to be up and running to assure the tourists of their safety, as well as wellbeing, while touring the country.
The marketing campaign attracted tourists back into Phuket though there was a decrease in the number of tourists visiting the country. In 2005, 2.5 million visitors were received compared to 4.2 million in 2004 and a rise of 40% in February 2005 compared to less than 10% in January.
The decrease affected the employee’s salary negatively reducing it by 35.3% (Carlsen & Hughes 2007, p.143). 61% of the respondents advocated for spare cash for emergencies and provision of safety drills and instructions in managing those natural disasters that may affect the industry (Carlsen & Liburd 2007, p.266).
It was found that 79.90% of the travel agencies did not have business insurance for either their property or the customers. 32.3% of the respondents needed assistance from the TAT to collaborate with the airline, tour operators and accommodation that was agreed by 90% of the travel agencies. On the other hand, 70% needed the government’s help in advertising and promoting the market as well as establish public relations on safety of the industry (Carlsen 2006, p.77).
Marketing recovery is the potentiality to recapture or to enhance market due to loss resulted from a negative scenario (Pforr & Hosie 2007, p.252). Such a scenario can be equated to the 2004 tsunami, which occurred at the Andaman coast in Thailand. The main aim of the researchers was to look for ways of reviving the tourism industry, which was highly affected by this disaster.
By doing this, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) contradicted the reports from national televisions, which reported that most of the villages were destroyed. According to TAT, many of the popular beaches were relatively unaffected. For example, only 12% of Phuket’s hotel rooms were damaged.
In order to restore and to correct the incorrect perception of the tourism industry; the researchers began examining the impact of the marketing campaigns that had been placed on all major markets, both locally and internationally, and through the Internet (Carlsen & Liburd 2007, p.269).
This included offering familiarization trips for the media from all the principal markets, broadcasting the status of the tourism industry through the local media especially on the television and radio and attending international trade shows and promotional fairs.
Others included using road shows and promotional workshops in the major markets, purchasing advertising space on international television and other media, having high-level delegations meet with tour operators and government officials in all leading markets and hanging welcome banners at the airport, and distributing a bi-monthly electronic newsletter to update keen tourists on the status of the industry.
Lastly, the rest involved offering joint destination promotions with leading tour operators and airlines; and conducting continued market research on the perceptions of tourists in the country (Carlsen & Hughes 2007, p.146). In addition, highly publicized events with a religious ceremony where the souls lost in that period were freed, and the priests and monks gave permission to the tourists to return to Southern Thailand (Pforr & Hosie 2007, p.259).
Moreover, they focused on the marketing environment. The natural disaster had destroyed the tourism environment in Thailand. The popular attractions especially in the Southern Thailand suffered from the disaster. In addition to this, the media continued giving negative reports on dilapidated beaches, hence deterring the tourists from travelling to Thailand (Carlsen & Hughes 2007, p.149).
Tourists not only worried about the occurrence of another tsunami as well as about their safety. To improve the market environment, the government approved $125 million to rebuild and market the beaches, which were destroyed to recover the original scenery.
For instance, there was plenty of trash on the Ba-Tong beach after the tsunami. However, after rebuilding the beach, the scenery became neater (Carlsen & Liburd 2007, p.274). The Thai government also designed historic travelling offers with reduced prices to attract travelers back into the country.
In cooperation with the Thailand Airline Company, hotels and travel agencies, the government promoted the sale of premium-priced travelling packages to attract the travelers and raise the in-flow of tourists into Thailand (Rittichainuwat 2006, p.403). The government has also invested in the establishment of an early warning system and disaster preparedness planning.
There was also restructuring of the Kamala Beach into a safe and distinctive cultural orientation spot hence creating a cultural image rather the previous adopted modern image (Pforr & Hosie 2007, p.263).
The Strategies used to promote and advertise the industry included organizing a number of mega tourism events such as international tiger skins games, LG action sports world tour, Happiness Andaman tsunami memorial day, and colorful Andaman, which were meant to create more attraction to those not yet aware of the revamped tourism market in Thailand.
Conventionally, disasters affect the tourism industry in several ways. Declines in the airline bookings, as well as increased advisory reports, hamper any quick revival of an industry hit by disasters such as the tsunami. However, with great planning, in cases where tsunamis and earthquakes occur frequently, would help in stabilizing the industry through any disaster in the future.
Thailand’s success in the tourism sector is mainly due to the cooperation between the government and the TAT in the provision of assistance to the country’s travel agencies and hotels. Funding by the government in the form of giving outstanding discounts to tourists and collaborating with organizations like the airlines to lower air tickets, contribute more in the growth of the industry.
Though the long-term recovery efforts are still on course and the response has been slower than expected, the market will be revived with continued support by the government to reconstruct and promote the marketing of tourism. Thus, there will be an improvement in the overall economy of Thailand. Further, the confidence among the tourists is being restored with the emphasis being laid on the country’s flood prevention and control.
The government should, as Rittichainuwat (2006) puts it, “research more on designing and developing natural landscapes and physical infrastructure to stand out against natural forces of tsunami, while ensuring the natural beauty of coastal and marine landscapes” (p. 399).
In addition, traveling agencies should insure their properties against natural disasters. Further, the local administration together with National marine parks and the royal Thai navy should assist the tourists with emergency evacuation, first aids treatment, and other lifesaving assistance.
Political turmoil serves to lower investor confidence as well as reduce the number of tourists visiting the country due to insecurity issues. The TAT and the government should formulate a peace agreement that seeks to protect the interests of the tourists as well as enhance their safety while in the country.
Carlsen, J. C., 2006. Post-Tsunami Tourism Strategies for the Maldives. Tourism Review International, 10(1), pp. 69-79.
Carlsen, J. C., & Hughes, M., 2007. Tourism Recovery Marketing In the Maldives After The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 23(2), pp. 139-149.
Carlsen, J. C., & Liburd, J. J., 2007. Developing a Research Agenda for Tourism Crisis Management, Market Recovery and Communication. Journal of Travel And Tourism Marketing, 23(3), pp. 265-276.
Pforr, C., & Hosie, P. J., 2007. Crisis Management in Tourism: Preparing For Recovery. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 23(4), pp. 249-264.
Rittichainuwat, B. N., 2006. Tsunami Recovery: A Case Study of Thailand’s Tourism. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration, 47(4), pp. 390-404.