The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: Tourism Impacts and Recovery Progress in Thailand's Marine National Parks
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami raised concern among marine park managers and hazard mitigation professionals about the significant impact of major coastal hazards on marine park natural resources and ecosystems. The main reason for this concern is the strong linkage of marine parks and their rich assortment of ecosystem services to coastal community social and economic well-being, particularly as it relates to park tourism. This relationship was examined for marine national parks (MNPs) along Thailand?s Andaman coast in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 tsunami. Four principal issues were examined: the impacts of the tsunami on marine parks and how they affected the tourism economy; the recovery efforts undertaken and their effectiveness; other actions that, if taken, might have improved preparedness and made recovery efforts more effective; and how marine parks might be made more resilient to natural disasters in the future. The principal method used to address these issues was a Delphi expert opinion process, supplemented by field investigations, interviews, and spatial data collection and analysis. Four specific parks with different degrees of tsunami impacts were selected as a basis for this study. Direct and indirect tsunami impacts to the business community were judged to have the most significant effects on tourism, followed by the direct impacts of the tsunami on the built environment and associated infrastructure. Social, health and safety impacts and impacts to natural resources and ecosystems were of lesser importance to the park tourism. However, recovery actions taken to rebuild infrastructure and park-serving facilities inside and outside park boundaries were judged most effective at helping to get park tourism back on its feet; tourism recovery actions associated with natural resources, the business community, and social services were judged to be only moderately effective. Numerous barriers and constraints to marine park tourism recovery were identified, some natural, but most human-caused. An idealized set of preparedness, response, and recovery actions were also identified and prioritized. These proved useful in designing planning guidelines that will help marine parks evaluate their vulnerability, set priorities for mitigation and preparedness, and become more resilient to hazards in the future.