In the aftermath of a series of impactful Tropical Cyclones wreaking havoc on Queensland’s tourism sector, a glaring truth has emerged: when it comes to natural disasters, preparation is the key to minimising devastation. As our climate undergoes transformative shifts, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events continue to escalate. Recognising the urgency of disaster readiness is imperative for individuals, communities, and governments alike.
The annual cyclone season, spanning from November to April, serves as a stark reminder of the need for proactive measures in the face of the unpredictable nature of these events. But how can the tourism industry, a vital player in regions prone to cyclones, fortify itself against disasters?
Enter the realm of dynamic capabilities in organisational competence—a concept wielding significant influence. Dynamic capabilities, the ability to flexibly integrate, build, and reconfigure internal and external competencies, offer a structured approach to navigating the tumultuous landscape of natural disasters. Balancing resource exploitation and exploration becomes pivotal—leveraging known resources while actively seeking new knowledge and assets. By comprehending the disaster lifecycle, judiciously sourcing and strategically deploying resources, organisations can not only weather the storm but transform challenges into opportunities, to increase resilience.
Why are dynamic capabilities important? Tourism organisations, functioning within a complex ecosystem, need to acknowledge their interdependence. Collaboration among various actors within the sector is crucial for resource integration and fostering shared values. Integrating knowledge, financial, human-related, and relational resources within the tourism system is imperative for nurturing dynamic capabilities.
Yet, the journey to dynamic capabilities can be challenging. Barriers are known to emerge due to a lack of shared value creation, which hinders progress. Divergent values and governance principles can lead to multi-layered leadership and government over-regulation, impeding seamless resource integration.
Lessons from the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Debbie in the Whitsunday Region underscored the need for strategic preparedness. Here are some takeaways
Cultivate a culture of flexibility: Tourism organizations in disaster-prone areas should embrace adaptability. Strategic use of dynamic capabilities allows for the renewal and reconfiguration of internal resources or the emulation of external resources, expediting preparedness.
Empower frontline Managers: Hierarchical organizations must empower frontline managers with decision-making authority, enhancing communication across hierarchies for more optimal and timely choices.
Advocate collaboration over competition: In regulated environments, prioritize collaborative efforts over competition. Tourism operators should actively work towards creating mutual value within the industry, emphasizing collective interests during times of crisis.
Here are some suggested ways the tourism industry can prepare:
In the face of an unpredictable climate disasters, the tourism industry’s ability to proactively prepare and adapt will not only ensure its survival but also pave the way for a thriving future amidst the storms.
Dr Yawei Jiang is a lecturer in the Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management. She is also a member of Griffith Institute for Tourism and Griffith Disaster Management Network, and is an experienced Qualitative Researcher with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Her research interest includes tourism crisis and disaster management, organisational/employee resilience, dynamic capabilities, stakeholder collaboration, strategic management.