Remembering the tsunami

The Indian Ocean tsunami of 26th December 2004 was a disaster of unprecedented magnitude.  Across the 12 affected countries in Asia and Africa, more than 230,000 people were reported dead or missing, over 2.1 million were displaced and left homeless, and millions of dollars of infrastructure was destroyed. The Boxing Day tsunami had a greater impact on UK public consciousness than any other modern natural disaster. Thousands of Europeans were among those who died. We knew and loved some of the devastated beaches. They have been favourite holiday spots for many of us. A record amount of promised donations and aid was raised to help the victims: £400 million in the UK alone.

Yet ten months after the disaster, thousands of survivors were still trying to survive in temporary camps. Many of them are being refused permission to return home. Governments and big businesses had plans for the beaches, which often didn’t include the people who used to live and work there.

In October 2005 Tourism Concern published its report looking at the countries where the post-tsunami reconstruction plans involve the tourism industry. (Even though Indonesians suffered terribly, Bali and other Indonesian tourist areas were not directly affected by the tsunami.) Research wasn’t easy as the issues were very complex and difficult, and the situations were changing constantly. Having suffered so much on 26 December, the local communities found themselves dis-empowered and their rights and interests marginalised.

Tourism Concern was concerned that only holidaymakers, governments and big business would benefit from the new post-tsunami tourism – our future ‘paradise’ holidays will be enjoyed at the expense of survivors.

Subsequent work with our partner Kabani on South India’s coastline confirmed this was an important issue, resulting in a DFID funded project to support capacity building in coastal communities and the five year anniversary Destination Tsunami touring exhibition launched in 2010, in partnership with the Guardian newspaper.

Download the original report here: Post tsunami reconstruction and tourism – a second disaster

Read this press piece to understand the complex impact of the tsunami on communities in Thailand ten years on.   

Images from the Destination Tsunami Exhibition. All images copyright Sohrab Hura 2009.  No images to be used, shared or reproduced without the express permission of Tourism Concern or Sohrab Hura.

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