Apr 25, 2024

University of Waterloo Hosts International Workshop on Tourism and Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery Featuring Experts from Around the World

University of Waterloo Hosts International Workshop on Tourism and Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery Featuring Experts from Around the World

KATHMANDU, August 23:The University of Waterloo, Canada in collaboration with its faculty of environment, hosted a two-day international workshop on the Role of Tourism and Social Capital in post-disaster recovery. The event aimed to shed light on the intersection of tourism and social capital in rebuilding communities affected by natural calamities.

The workshop commenced with an opening speech by Professor Sanjay Nepal, a renowned professor at the University of Waterloo. Professor Nepal emphasized the significance of the workshop and highlighted the crucial role of tourism and social capital in the recovery process. He outlined the key aspects of tourism to be explored during the workshop.

One of the prominent speakers at the event was Professor Brent Doberstein, also from the University of Waterloo. Professor Doberstein provided an overview of the "Tourism, Social/Cultural Capital, and Disaster Recovery: Comparative Perspectives From Nepal, Indonesia, and the Philippines" project. This 6-year research project, funded by the Canadian SSHRC, aims to investigate the role of social and cultural capital in post-disaster recovery from 2020 to 2025. Professor Doberstein emphasized the importance of understanding social capital in the aftermath of disasters, as it promotes resilience, minimizes social impacts, and enhances communication.

Mr. Dipak Gyawali, Academician from the Nepal Academy of Science & Technology (NAST) added his insights to the workshop with a presentation on "Disasters as the Unfinished Business of Development: A Cultural Theory Perspective." He discussed the three types of technologies - community-led, agency-led, and market-led - utilized in disaster response. Mr. Gyawali emphasized the importance of choosing the appropriate technology based on the specific time and conditions.

Dr. Dhananjay Regmi, the CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board, expressed his congratulations and appreciation for the workshop. He also discussed the positive recovery of Nepal's tourism industry following the 2015 earthquake, citing a survey conducted by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) which revealed a 24.8% increase in tourism. He quoted his conversation with Professor Brent Doberstein, stating, "Never let a good crisis go to waste," emphasizing the importance of utilizing post-disaster situations to catalyze positive change.

Mr. Anil Pokherel, Chief Executive of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA) of Nepal, also graced the event with his presence. Mr. Pokherel's presentation, titled "From Risk to Resilience: Nepal's Experience on Reconstruction and Recovery of Cultural Heritage and Tourism," focused on the government's efforts in reconstructing heritage sites and monuments after the 2015 earthquake. He mentioned the challenges faced, including the impact of the monsoon season and financial constraints, which have slowed down the reconstruction process. Mr. Pokherel highlighted the government's focus on setting up a national multi-hazard warning system to ensure the safety of tourists.

The workshop also featured presentations by international speakers, including Prof. Muh Aris Marfai from Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, and Prof. Dakila Kim Yee from the University of the Philippines. They presented the topics of geospatial information in post-disaster management and the role of social capital in ecotourism initiatives, respectively.

The final session of the workshop included three special case studies conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo in collaboration with local experts. These case studies focused on Tacloban in the Philippines, Mt Merapi in Indonesia, and Kathmandu in Nepal. Each case study explored the impact of disasters on specific communities and showcased the solutions implemented by the respective governments, communities, and private sectors.

Traveling from the University of Waterloo, Canada to these three different nations, three researchers presented three different presentations on various issues. Just like the Three Musketeers, they had their own yet similar goal towards addressing these case studies. They obtained data, explored the allotted sites, communicated with the public, and gained an in-depth local perspective on how these disasters affected the nations and how the people, communities, private sector, and government are tackling these issues.

Each case study was uniquely distinct but aimed to show the solutions undertaken by these nations in response to such crises. The case studies included Tacloban, Philippines presented by Ms. Celina Maya Mohni; Mt Merapi, Indonesia presented by Ms. Beth Palmer; and Kathmandu, Nepal presented by Ms. Jacqueline Harper.

The first day of the workshop concluded with a moderated workshop and discussion led by Dr. Erin O'Connell from the University of Waterloo. The session delved into the topic of "Tourism After Disasters," exploring the role of tourists, social and cultural capital in post-disaster recovery. Delegates actively engaged in the discussion, sharing insights and experiences.