In wake of tsunami UN conference examines media relations and tourism

With the wide-ranging impacts of last December’s devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami now becoming clear, the United Nations tourism agency has called experts and journalists to the Indonesian resort island of Bali for a first-ever regional meeting focusing on crisis communications and the role of the media in tourism.Marking a turning point for media relations and crisis communications in Asia and the Pacific, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) has joined the Indonesian Government in hosting the Regional Conference on Tourism Communications (TOURCOM). The two-day meeting is expected to draw decision makers in international tourism communications from the public, private sectors and a large group of journalists.The Conference’s main goal is to share experiences and exchange views on a wide range of tourism communications issues, such as media relations, corporate and marketing communications and to establish a new partnership between the tourism community and the travel and business media.And since Indonesia was hardest hit by last December’s tsunami, which indirectly affected its tourism image, a very important part of the Conference will be dedicated to risk and crisis communications in tourism.“TOURCOM creates an opportunity for tourism and the media to listen to and learn from one another,” WTO Deputy Secretary-General Dawid de Villiers said. “The view of media professionals on improved communications, on the one hand, and explanations from the tourism sector on the workings of the tourism industry on the other hand, can contribute to constructive discussions and a better mutual understanding.”The Conference was to have been opened with a video message from the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery Bill Clinton, who stressed that tourists need more information about the impact the tsunami has had on tourist facilities. “Some potential tourists simply do not know that many of the resorts in the region are fully recovered and open for business. As members of the media – you have the power to disseminate valuable information to the public,” the former US President said.“Nothing has driven this message home more directly than the series of shocks and crises of the last four years, beginning with September 11 and followed by more terrorist attacks, a war, a SARS epidemic, the tsunami, earthquakes, and so on. Communications is key to the challenge of managing a global industry in a volatile world,” underscored Mr. de Villiers. read more