The importance of tourism as a phenomenon affecting the liveliness and vitality of local communities and regions can be viewed in three ways in terms of preparedness, emergency supply, and search and rescue capacity. First, tourism has the capacity to adapt to changes in its operating environment. Another aspect is the impact of tourism on the resilience of its operating environment, which can be both negative and positive (alternatively neutral). The third aspect pertains to tourism as a potential consumer, rather than a producer, of safety and security.

The negative impacts of tourism industry on the ecosystem (consumer sustainability, carbon emissions, species extinction), on social relations (human trafficking, crime, social licensing issues) and the economy (distorted competition, economic unilateralism) have been of widespread interest in international tourism research. Positive outcomes such as regional economic effects, increasing working opportunities, incentives for nature conservation, enhanced cultural awareness, and maintaining international peace are also strongly reflected in the literature.

However, research on tourism and security has devoted very little attention to the capabilities of tourism to produce resilience for the surrounding community. The contribution of the tourism sector from the perspective of regional crisis management and preparedness capacities deserves more in-depth analyses in the domain. The lack of research literature is noteworthy, especially given the positive effects of the sector on the regional economy. An interesting question is, for example, whether tourism plays a role in the regional and local preparedness and search and rescue capabilities, and if so, what the vector of this impact is. An interesting research topic is also the contribution of the tourism industry’s ecosystem in strengthening the resilience of municipalities and local communities, and the role of tourism in crisis preparedness planning. Tourism services are often a paramount part of the economic structure of sparsely populated rural areas and the vitality of municipalities.

The importance of the tourism business in maintaining the crisis preparedness of sparsely populated areas has only been recognized during the strong growth phase of the industry in recent years. The industry is now perceived as a resource for safety and security thanks to its strong tradition of networking with public authorities and other businesses. Businesses and private sector in general play an increasingly prominent role in the production of municipal services and goods. It is important that businesses are therefore also involved in the preparedness work of the local community. From this perspective, it is possible to consider the need to support the continuity management of stakeholders in the sector and to monitor their phase of preparedness.

In addition, the strong development of the industry has brought demands to ensure the safety of international and domestic tourists, especially in sparsely populated areas where the response time of public services is extensive and climatic and environmental conditions are challenging. The development of the tourism industry has brought large customer flows to tourist centers and destinations. Thus, it is imperative to take the industry into account in regional preparedness cooperation. Tourism should be part of a regional situations picture function maintained by regional and local authorities.

The development of the social impact levels of the tourism industry can be illustrated by the following diagram:

Decade - Domestic Impact Level

1980s - Raising awareness of the industry in economic value-chains

1990s - A tool for employment and well-being in local communities

2000s - Relevance of safety and security as key concepts in quality management

2010s - Understanding the resilience impact of the industry

2020s - Recognition of the industry as an equal actor in local and regional preparedness pool

Companies engaged in tourism form a network of expertise in maintaining and developing the crisis preparedness of municipalities and regions. Destinations and individual tourism companies possess expertise on crisis and risk management and the technical equipment to respond to emergency situations in municipalities and villages. While electricity and heat, fuel, food, and domestic water distribution as well as social and health care units and information and communication networks have been built for tourism, they are also available to the rest of the society.

By Pekka Iivari, Principal Lecturer, Lapland University of Applied Sciences.

[Originally published in the UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2022. Read all articles here]