Many world-famous tourist destinations have suffered severe natural disasters, causing a downturn in local tourism.

According to SCMP, several natural disasters have occurred at popular destinations, severely affecting the local tourism industry. Hotels and restaurants have been damaged, travel companies have shut down, and local residents have lost their jobs. So far this year, there have been four major natural disasters at these famous destinations.

Rhodes Island, Greece: Wildfires

Wildfires have ravaged many regions around the world during the past summer. In July, during the peak tourist season, strong winds swept through the dry areas of Rhodes Island, igniting a massive wildfire that raged for weeks.

Tourists Struggle in the Largest Evacuation on Rhodes Island, Greece - Image 1

The forest fire disaster on the island of Rhodes has been ongoing for nearly a week, along with nearby islands Corfu and Evia, causing tens of thousands of tourists and local residents to evacuate to safer destinations. Photo: AP

Local residents and tourists had to seek refuge in schools and other shelters as the flames threatened resorts and seaside villages. The global media described the evacuation from Rhodes as the “largest in Greek history,” with nearly 19,000 people evacuated by sea starting from July 22.

Over the past two months, the Greek government has been working to rescue the local tourism industry. Officials on Rhodes Island have declared that the destination is now safe and ready to welcome tourists from around the world.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has agreed to offer tourists whose trips were canceled during the wildfire a week of free accommodation in Rhodes in 2024. In 2022, Rhodes Island welcomed approximately 2.5 million visitors, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Hawaii: Wildfires

Lahaina, on the west coast of Maui, where people used to make a living from whale hunting, is one of the most famous vacation spots in the Hawaiian archipelago.

In August, a devastating wildfire swept through Maui. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the wildfire on Maui caused more damage than the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California, which destroyed the town of Paradise and claimed 85 lives. The Maui wildfire is also considered the deadliest in the United States in the past century, with at least 185 people killed. Approximately 2,200 buildings were damaged or destroyed, resulting in an estimated $6 billion in losses.

Tourism experts are concerned that the long-term impact of the wildfires will affect the tourism industry in Maui and the Hawaiian islands as a whole. After the wildfires were contained, local authorities urged tourists not to visit Maui temporarily to provide accommodations for locals. One thousand hotel rooms were allocated for evacuees and first responders.

Morocco: Earthquake

The movement of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates was the primary cause of the devastating earthquake that struck Morocco on September 8, resulting in thousands of casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that this was the strongest earthquake to hit North Africa in a century.

The epicenter of the 6.8 magnitude Richter scale earthquake was in the High Atlas Mountains, approximately 166 kilometers southwest of the heritage city of Marrakech, in the Al Haouz province. This region suffered the highest casualties.

Famous Tourist Destinations in Morocco Devastated by Earthquake - Image 4

A hotel in Moulay Brahim village was damaged by the earthquake. Before the disaster, villagers earned extra income by selling souvenirs, religious items, food, and accommodations to tourists, in addition to farming. It is believed that it will be a long time before tourists return to the area. Photo: AP.

Marrakech, a major tourist destination in Morocco, was significantly affected by the earthquake, with many historic structures sustaining severe damage. Starting on September 11, all historical sites in Marrakech, including the Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, and El Badi Palace, were closed to visitors.

Marrakech has always been a top destination in Morocco, with the city welcoming 10.9 million tourists in 2022, an increase of 3.7 million compared to the previous year, according to Morocco World News.

Sikkim, India: Avalanches

In April, an avalanche in the state of Sikkim, one of the most beautiful tourist regions in India, resulted in the deaths of seven tourists and injuries to 17 others. The group of tourists was buried by snow while traversing Nathu La, a mountain pass in the Himalayas between India and Tibet.

Scientists believe that climate change has increased the risk and intensity of avalanches in Sikkim, a northeastern border state of India. Deforestation is another contributing factor, as the removal of trees destabilizes the soil, making it prone to avalanches.

Murree, Pakistan: Snowstorm

In January 2022, 150,000 tourists flocked to the mountain resort town of Murree in northern Pakistan in hopes of witnessing the season’s first snowfall. However, they were met with a fierce snowstorm.

The snowstorm caused trees and power lines to fall, leading to gridlock on the roads into and out of Murree, with vehicles stuck for kilometers. Some tourists abandoned their cars and sought shelter in the city, while others were stranded overnight. The plummeting temperatures resulted in 23 deaths as people succumbed to hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning from vehicle exhaust.

In the days following the snowstorm, survivors expressed anger and criticized hotel owners for dramatically increasing room prices to “unacceptable levels,” holding them responsible for the deaths of those who chose to stay in their vehicles.

Venice, Italy: Flooding

In November 2019, Venice experienced its most severe flooding in 50 years. Landmarks such as St. Mark’s Square and many shops, restaurants, and bars were inundated. Half of the city’s 120 churches were submerged, and many historic houses and architectural structures suffered damage.

Following the flood, tourists canceled hotel reservations en masse, and some events were postponed.

Natural Disasters Impacting Tourism - image 3

Tourists wading through floodwaters in Venice on December 23, 2019. Photo: AP

While Venice residents have seemingly grown accustomed to flooding, their concern is the increasing depth of the water and the frequency of flooding, which continues to rise each year.