Students from all semesters studying Tourismus-, Hotel- und Eventmanagement (B.A.) Hochschule Fresenius in Munich had the opportunity to take part in an online guest lecture by Jean-Marc Flambert. They learned more about tourism and crises and gained insights into the 2004 tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka.
In the guest lecture, Jean-Mark Flambert shared his experiences as Marketing Director and Consultant for crisis-prone countries, such as Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and Haiti – and spoke about his work in Sri Lanka in 2004: He had just started working for the Tourism Board Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit the country. Therefore, he was able to give the students many insights into the measures that were taken and what was done to restore tourism in each country.
For Sri Lanka, the repatriation of stranded tourists to their respective home countries, as well as the organization of a call centre for friends and relatives of the tourists was central to the management of the crisis in the first phase. Yet, there were many hurdles to overcome:
- The buses that sent to the affected regions to return the vacationers to their respective home countries returned empty because the local population had taken in many tourists at their homes to care for them.
- The former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was also on vacation in Sri Lanka at the time, which represented an additional challenge as the safety and repatriation of a VIP had to be ensured.
- At the call centre, many Germans inquired not only about missing friends or about relatives, but also especially about local waiters or hotel employees they had met during a vacation many years before the tsunami hit the country.
In the time following, the tourists’ trust and confidence in the destination had to be restored. The guiding principle here was the realization that this message had to come from the travellers themselves in order to achieve credibility. Additionally, it was recognized that the local population is the main motivation for tourists visiting the country. Therefore, marketing efforts focused on Our People and Bounce Back.
During the lecture, students had numerous opportunities to participate and ask questions. In addition, they discussed how tourism in Sri Lanka should develop after the Corona pandemic and what needs to be done to ensure that a normal vacation experience is possible again.
Jean-Marc Flambert welcomed and said goodbye to the students with a greeting from Sri Lanka, “Ayubowan”, which translated means: May you be blessed with long life.