On August 17, 1999 at 3 AM, an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale with an epicenter near the Turkish city Izmit, some 100 kilometers east of Istanbul in the Marmara region of northern Turkey, devastated a large area where 20,000 people were killed and other 50,000 were left injured. Before Izmit, another earthquake named Frzinkan of 1939 was more destructive and had caused 32,000 deaths in Turkey. Many of the dead and injured had got buried in the rubble of their homes while they were sleeping in their homes.
Besides massive loss of human lives, the two major earthquakes had to crippling of financial sector, massive external debt and ongoing budget deficit. It ruined much of Turkey’s productive industrial heartlands.
Because of Izmit earthquake, the tourism industry in Turkey in the months between August and December of 1999, inbound tourism figures were 30 percent down in comparable months of 1998. In order to mitigate such problem, Turkish tourism authorities began to highlight minimal earthquake damage to most visited tourist sites, stress the overall safety of Turkey as a destination, and cooperate with allied tour operators in the various source markets in order to disseminate a positive message about Turkey.
To speed up the restoration of tourism industry, Turkish Ministry of Tourism was provided with strong moral and financial support by the Turkish government. Turkish Tourism offices mobilized media and travel agency hosting to Turkey. Various Television crews, journalist and travel agents were invited to see the extent of earthquake damage and then visit the main tourist areas to reinforce the message that they are mostly untouched by the quake. From authentic casualties’ information, Turkish Ministry of Tourism established a crisis management team. This team disseminated the exact information about the casualties and the infrastructure loss.
Recently Nepal has also gone through the major earthquake. An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale with an epicenter at Barpak of Gorkha killed more than 9,000 people and other hundreds of thousands were injured with immense loss of property. It took place in April 25, 2015 at 11:56 AM on Saturday when many people were busy in their work. Several national and international media published and broadcasted news about the casualties and destruction caused by quake in Nepal.
According to Post Disaster Need Assessment (PDNA) report of National Planning Commission, tourism is the worst-hit sector with total loss of more than 82 billion rupees. This tourism industry in Nepal has been crippled now as the rate of tourist visiting Nepal is very low. So, the hour has come to the similar kind of strategy like that of Turkey for the promotion of tourism. Like Turkey, Nepal should also focus on highlighting the minimal earthquake damage to most visited tourist sites. She should encourage the travel industry to demonstrate support urging their client to visit. Similarly, Nepal Tourism Board and other concerned authorities should provide every kind of help to tour operators and other small organizations working in the realm of tourism so that they can endeavor their best to accelerate the rate of tourist flow in Nepal.
(The writer is a student of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies at TU.)