August 15, 2018

Wildfires burn economy in Yosemite, other national park communities

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Communities that benefit from tourism at national parks and other areas affected by wildfires this year could feel the economic fallout for years to come.

Yosemite National Park reopened this week after heavy smoke and flames halted operations during the peak tourist season, resulting in roughly $50 million in tourism losses, according to the Associated Press.

More fires erupted this week in Glacier National Park, destroying structures and prompting evacuations, after a busy July that attracted 400,000 visitors, according to a separate AP report, which cited officials concerned about the economic impact of a prolonged park closure.

“Businesses can experience rapid, catastrophic failure, or a slow, onset demise due to the physical impact of a natural disaster,” said Sandra Sydnor, a professor of hospitality and tourism management at Purdue University.

“They might reopen, but only temporarily, unable to recover sufficiently to sustain operations,” she continued. “And you have businesses that simply limp along; they never recover to their pre-disaster revenues, let alone rebound.”

Economic damage in destinations hit by natural disasters lingers for years or decades, if not permanently, and is often distributed unevenly among businesses, said Sydnor, a member of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center.

“Resilience is not a static state, but rather, a dynamic one,” she said. “Purdue researchers have introduced a framework that suggests resilience is a process measured on a continuum, from ‘survival’ to ‘recovered’ to a ‘resilient state’ – one that is improved beyond pre-disaster conditions.”

Sydnor said resilience is dependent on:

  • Business age.
  • Amount and type of damage accrued by the disaster.
  • Social capital, and the amount and type of an entrepreneur’s social networks.
  • Pre-disaster financial condition, which, if in poor standing, can be exacerbated by a natural disaster. 

Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, paul102@purdue.edu 

Source: Sandra Sydnor, 765-494-3449, ssydnorb@purdue.edu

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