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The road to recovery: Reimagining Kaikōura after a natural disaster

Fountain J, Cradock-Henry N. 2019. The road to recovery: reimagining Kaikoura after a natural disaste. In: Walters G, Mair J, editors. Reputation and image recovery for the tourism industry. Oxford (GB): Oxford Publishers Limited.


This research uses real life cases studies to illustrate how carefully managed response strategies can ensure the future survival of an organisation. The magnitude 7.8 Kaikōura earthquake in November 2016 caused extensive damage and some loss of life. Unlike the Christchurch earthquakes five years earlier, devastation to the landscape, rather than buildings, dominated media images emerging from the region. Over subsequent days, aerial video footage of the many massive landslips engulfing State Highway 1 both north and south of the town and leaving the town isolated made a lasting impression on viewers. At the same time, dramatic images of the seabed around the coast lifted up to two metres, stranding the crayfish and shellfish, raised questions about the survival of the marine life for which the region is renowned. The earthquake struck at the start of what was hoped to be a bumper tourist season. In a town where about 80 percent of businesses cater to international visitors and over half of all are directly related to tourism, the immediate future looked bleak. News reports emanating from the region carried foreboding headlines. Based on documentary analysis and interviews with key tourism stakeholders, this research critically analyses the process and stages of recovery for the Kaikōura tourism industry. Whilst the earthquake was clearly a traumatic event, with a number of ongoing negative impacts, indications are that a more resilient tourism region is emerging from the recovery response. Initial promotional efforts which focused on encouraging the domestic market from Canterbury to return to the town seems to have had considerable success, and efforts are underway to diversify the regional tourism product and market base. Tourism stakeholders report the shared experience of responding and adapting to seismic events within Canterbury has resulted in a much greater sense of camaraderie between districts, and recognition of the value of bringing a cooperative, regional approach to tourism recovery strategies.

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