Forest fires' impact on tourism development: A comparative study of Greece and Cyprus
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Purpose: Every year thousands of acres are burned and a number of people lose their lives in forest fires that increasingly surpass the wild land limit and lead on to touristic, urban areas. By and large, Mediterranean countries rely highly on offering a tourist product based on sea, sun, culture and nature. While the sea and sun are not affected by fire catastrophes, places of cultural and natural beauty are indeed hit; tourists end up being uninformed with no proper guidance from the firefighting authorities. This paper seeks to address these issues. Design/methodology/approach: This paper attempts to highlight the relation between fire catastrophes and tourism development, to identify if and how state authorities take into account tourists in the planning and management of appropriate measures. A comparative study between Greece and Cyprus is presented. A number of interviews with stakeholders on the policy and operational level were conducted and the results and their implications are presented. Findings: Planning and suppression is complicated with a number of actors involved in various stages; national tourism organizations in both countries do not take part in the information or planning process. There is an emerging need for the provision of useful, comprehensive, practical information aimed at tourists. Research limitations/implications: The findings of the paper are based in a number of interviews with key policy makers as well as key operational commanders. The participation of the above in the policy making as well as operational phase shows a number of limitations. This paper presents a qualitative approach to the subject. A follow-up quantitative study is already planned. Practical implications: Lessons learnt from previous catastrophes, in-depth analysis of the existing "modus operandi" and "rules of engagement" should provide the necessary background for creating new risk-based, comprehensive, focused communication campaigns. Social implications: Safer societies and lower impact on the environment are the main outcomes of a concerted communication campaign. Tourism represents and multiplies the image of the country as a whole to the world; a solution to the problem would offer added value. Originality/value: The paper is based on a number of in-depth interviews with actors that took part in the actual handling of the two major catastrophes in Cyprus and Greece. The outcome of the interviews is presented for the first time.