This is a response on Kishor Chitrakar’s article: Political Turbulence and Destination Resilience: A Case Study of the Struggle of the Tourism Industry of Nepal amidst Political Instability
I enjoyed reading the article by Kishor. The main question addressed in the article is how tourism can develop during and after a political crisis. I would like to focus on the first part of his research due to the limitation of literature on tourism development during a political crisis. Much of the literature has focused on tourism development in a post-conflict settings, such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Rwanda, and the impacts of political instability on tourism and the local economy. In spite of the numerous political dimensions of tourism, the interconnections between politics and tourism are still insufficiently examined (Butler and Suntikul, 2010). Matthews (1978) and Richter (1983) were the first authors to address the importance of the relationship between politics and tourism. Some dimensions of the tourism-politics relationship have been tackled mostly from economic, business and managerial perspectives: for instance, political risk analysis in tourism development (Poirier, 1997), political crisis management (Elliott, 1997), politics and the public sector’s management of tourism (Sönmez, 1998), tourism planning and development in political border destinations (Timothy, 2001), and political marketing of destinations (Beirman, 2002). Much less research, however, has examined the problems, opportunities and implications of tourism during politically unstable times. I think this is one of the strengths of Kishor’s paper.
Ultimately, it is important to question what steps and actions destination management organizations (DMOs), as well as destination marketers, need to take to improve Nepal’s’ image in the eye of potential tourists. I welcomed Kishore’s paper very much as I believe there is very limited research and contribution in the literature focusing on Nepal in general and in particular on the development of tourism during a political crisis.
International tourism is extremely sensitive to safety and security issues (Pizam&Mansfeld, 1996). It is indeed one of the undertakings most vulnerable to changes on the world stage that may cause changes in consumer behaviour (Seabra et al., 2013). Safety and security are significant issues at a destination level and, therefore, should be considered by DMOs as one of the most influential conditions for the development of a tourism destination in a politically unstable environment. In Kishor’s paper, the study likewise found safety to be an important destination attribute in the case of Nepal. This has also been confirmed among German holiday makers, who participated in a study conducted by Isaac & Velden (2018) regarding the attitudes and risk perceptions of German markets about traveling to Turkey as a tourism destination. Only a minority considered safety as of little important or indicated that terrorism would not change their travel behaviour. One of the central points highlighted in Kishor’s paper is that the political situation in Nepal is an influential factor on the potential market travel behaviour.
I am in agreement with Kishor’s paper that the DMO in Nepal must pay attention to the country’s image as a safe and secure destination. The reality of having a safe and secure destination for holidaymakers may not translate into positive perceptions about the same place, however, since image is so subjective (MacKay &Fesenmaier, 1997). An experimental study showed that new information can lead decision-makers to continually reassess their decisions (Sirakaya, Shephard and McLelland, 1998). Their evidence recommends that decision makers are very sensitive about issues of safety and security at a destination. Thus, the challenge for destination marketers is how to manage a destination’s image to eventually result in positive behavioural intensions and outcomes in a climate of political instability such as the case of Nepal.
If destination marketers understand how potential consumers react to safety, and risk perception regarding political crisis, they can create a more effective marketing campaign to influence consumers’ expectations and decision-making. DMOs and stakeholders in Nepal should be aware that safety is nowadays a key attribute for a destination. Accordingly, these perceptions could be improved by creating security and preventive measures during periods of political instability such as increased police presence at tourist sites and resorts. Destination marketers must, therefore, be concerned about minimizing the impacts of turbulence and about the impact of political instability on their image, which requires a careful marketing strategy as also pointed out by Kishor.
Finally and importantly, comprehending the tourism context in Nepal or any destination that ‘enjoys’ political instability, demands an understanding of political context and history. There is a need for academics and practitioners to address these ‘knowledge gaps’ or, more precisely, ‘situations of despair’ (Isaac 2011: 170). One result of this responsibility could be to establish a research agenda on the politico–economic difficulties and opportunities in developing tourism in an unstable environment or political crisis.