Who’s in Charge When Disaster Strikes?
Kadek Adidharma is a tourism operator from Bali currently on sabbatical at the University of Auckland where he is studying Disaster Management. The Jakarta Post recently published as a feature article containing Kadek’s comments on media communication and disaster management in Indonesia.
What follow is Kadek’s unedited article submitted to The Jakarta Post.
Balidiscovery.com and Bali Update thank Kadek Adidharma for his kind accolade.
Natural catastrophes do not always spell disaster to the tourism industry. Handled well, the temporary dip during a natural disaster could lead to a sustained period of growth.
Tourism operators in Bali share Cabinet Secretary Pramono Agung’s Monday concern that natural disasters come at “a high price to tourism in the region” and agree that there is no need to declare the Lombok earthquakes a national disaster.
It is obvious that the response and recovery efforts are being well coordinated, however there is a huge gap of information to be filled between the efforts on the ground and potential visitors abroad.
Why can a disaster fuel growth? Because for a sustained period, the disaster is highlighted in the world media and people are talking about it around the globe. Bad news travels fast and catches attention that advertising cannot buy.
However, there is a caveat: the stories coming out of the disaster need to be tempered with compassion and reason, and it is important to communicate clear messages of preparedness and resilience. The world needs to know that Indonesia is prepared to face natural disasters and can bounce back better and stronger than ever.
We are fortunate to have developed robust capacity in dealing with natural disasters in our national and regional disaster mitigation agencies. However, no government department is taking charge of communicating the stories of our recovery and resilience to the world.
The speed at which our disaster mitigation agencies respond to and share information about natural disasters is impressive. Besides the regular press releases and news bulletin on the BNPB web site, an Incident Commander is appointed for each natural disaster to manage the flow of up-to-the-minute information through various channels including SMS and WhatsApp groups.
But these stories are only sent out through the Indonesia.travel website and media partners of the Ministry of Tourism. Rather than putting out any fires caused by sensationalist reporting in the world media or social media, they are simply preaching to the converted. Sensationalist media do not care about accuracy, they simply want to be the first to report any juicy alarmist morsels for click-bait. Even Vogue Australia couldn’t resist reporting the trembling of an Instagram model. The question the tourism industry has been asking is, who is in charge of fighting these false rumors?
Time Magazine dubbed John M Daniels’ Bali Update as Bali’s “Ministry of Truth” after the Bali Bombings due to his tireless reporting. But ‘Jack’ Daniels, as he is better known, is just one man working from home out of his own pocket. Surely it is time for significant resources to be invested to establish a Ministry of Truth to save Indonesia’s tourism industry from such blatant misinformation.
After an eight-month dry spell of tourism brought on by the botched closure of Ngurah Rai in November 2017, Bali had barely enjoyed three weeks of its traditional high season when the first earthquake struck its neighboring island. Hotel occupancies, traditionally high for the entire month of August, have already started to drop.
Will the Minister of Truth please stand up?
Kadek’s unedited article submitted to The Jakarta Post.
Date: 20 Jan 2019