After a natural disaster occurs at a destination where our clients are traveling to or considering travel to, we are frequently asked whether traveling to those destinations in the wake of those natural disasters is a help or a hindrance and the answer is, of course, it depends. There are several questions to consider:
Is the destination open for tourism?
Travelers should always follow the guidance of the local government officials to determine the safety of traveling to destinations impacted by disasters as well as the US State Department website. Also, take note of the areas that are impacted - for instance the wildfires on the island of Rhodes and the floods in Skiathos did not impact the majority of the country of Greece, leaving the majority of the country untouched and safe to travel to. Similarly, in Morocco the greatest impact of the earthquake has been to the the small villages in the Atlas Mountains, not to the cities of Fez, Casablanca or even Marrakech, although the old city is still cordoned off for now while the government assesses the potential danger to the older buildings.
As a tourist, will I be taking away resources from the community?
Respecting the ongoing humanitarian crisis in destinations impacted by natural disasters is crucial, but it's also important to recognize that tourism plays a vital role in the destination's economy. Guides, drivers, restaurant staff, and hotel workers rely on the income generated by tourists for their livelihoods and survival. While there may be times when resources are funneled towards the relief effort - for instance, when flights are cancelled so airplanes can be used to bring in supplies as happened in Turkey after the earthquake - the greatest resources that are needed are those provided by tourism, according to our supplier in Morocco, Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui, Co-Founder of Experience Morocco, one of our partners in the area.
How can I be mindful of the area and demonstrate respect for the local communities as a tourist? Hawaii's Tourism Authority is encouraging tourists to return to Maui - which is reopening on October 8 - and visit the other islands of Hawaii, however, they have noted ways in which travelers can demonstrate respect while traveling to the area:
- Visit with aloha and compassion
- Support local businesses
- Consider participating in unique volunteer opportunities throughout the islands
- Learn about the historical and cultural significance of Lahanina but stay away from the area as a means of respect for the people and places that have been lost during this devastating tragedy.
How can I help?
"The greatest thing you can do for Morocco right now is to come to Morocco," Alaoui noted in a recent webinar addressing the impact of the earthquake on tourism to the area. He encouraged those planning to travel to the country to keep their plans and encouraged those who didn't have plans to visit soon, to travel to the country now and bring much needed tourism dollars to the country.
In addition there are relief agencies such as Doctors Without Borders, Unicef, and The Red Cross. Other local resources include Maui Strong, World Central Kitchen, and Education for All Morocco, an NGO that runs boarding houses for girls from rural families to continue their education.
Once the relief agencies have done their work, the local infrastructure is functioning, and the destination has announced it's open and encouraging visitors, infusing money into the local economy by traveling there is one of the easiest ways we can help a destination get back on its feet.