Tourism and Crisis: Clean Slates, Disaster Capitalism, and Vulnerability

Tourism and Crisis: Clean Slates, Disaster Capitalism, and Vulnerability

Faye Taylor (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0201-2.ch010
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Abstract

Numerous researchers have highlighted a relative lack of academic attention directly addressing the influence of political economy on achieving sustainability in post-disaster reconstruction (Klein, 2008; Hystad and Keller, 2008; Olsen, 2000; Faulkner, 2001; Glaesser, 2003; Ritchie, 2004). This chapter therefore extends existing academic debates and studies in a number of areas, drawing upon the context of Thailand in the post-Asian tsunami era. In existing academic debates concerning the political economy of post-disaster reconstruction there is a trend towards disaster capitalism (Klein, 2005; Harvey, 2007; Saltman, 2007a). However, this did not occur on Phi Phi. Despite claims of a ‘clean slate' being offered by the tsunami in developmental terms (Pleumarom, 2004; UNDP, 2005; Dodds, 2011; Ko, 2005; Nwankwo and Richardson, 1994; Rice, 2005; Altman, 2005; Brix, 2007; Ghobarah et al., 2006; Dodds et al., 2010), this chapter provides explanation of why this did not and would never exist on Phi Phi, a finding that may be applied to other destinations in a post-disaster context.
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Introduction

This chapter will draw upon empirical research carried out in the wake of the Asian tsunami, intended to examine the role of a mega natural disaster upon tourism development and planning. This tsunami, which took place on 26th December 2004, triggered by an underwater earthquake of 9.3 on the Richter scale off the coast of Banda Aceh, Northern Indonesia (Ghobarah et al. 2006) affected nineteen countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, resulted in over 300,000 deaths and left 1.5 million people homeless (Ghobarah et al. 2006). A specific focus upon Thailand will be taken, more precisely the island of Koh Phi Phi in the Southern Andaman, a popular backpacker and day-tripper destination, the epitome of a paradise location (Fahn, 2003; Cummings 2005), which, when struck by the tsunami, suffered a tremendous loss of life and vast destruction of island infrastructure to support both tourism and local livelihoods (Bergman, 2005). The island’s reconstruction is still ongoing today. This chapter intends to explore some of the following discussions and debates using the Asian tsunami as a primary focus but will also draw upon examples of other natural disasters that have affected the tourism industry in recent times.

Regarded as one of the most catastrophic crises of our times (Wong, 2009), the Asian tsunami left a long-lasting global footprint (Rice, 2005). This event was locally devastating, but also lingered in the global consciousness on account of the intense media coverage, and the fact that many of the areas affected were those that we have personal familiarity with through tourism (Rice, 2005). Historically, the development of Phi Phi, including tourism, had been subject to widespread criticism (Fahn, 2003; Hart, 2005; Dodds, Graci & Holmes, 2010), due to the unsustainable nature of infrastructure development and lack of strict regulation and planning, particularly with regard to the alleged ‘sell-out’ of Phi Phi Le’s Maya Bay (part of Hat Noppharat Thara National Marine Park) following the filming of Fox’s motion picture The Beach (Noikorn, 1998; Ekachai, 1998; Fuengprichavai, 1998).

The chapter will address four key concerns. Firstly, the observation within literature on the political economy of post-disaster reconstruction, of a trend towards ‘disaster capitalism’ (Klein, 2008) or ‘smash and grab capitalism’ (Harvey, 2007, p. 32) and ‘attempts to accumulate by dispossession’ (Saltman, 2007a, p. 57). The author’s research found that this did not occur on Phi Phi. Despite claims of a ‘clean slate’ being offered by the tsunami in developmental terms (Pleumarom, 2004; UNDP, 2005; Brix, 2007; Ghobarah et al., 2006), this chapter will provide evidence and explanation of why this did not and would not occur on Phi Phi, a finding that may be applied to other destinations in a post natural-disaster context.

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