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The effectiveness of post-disaster recovery marketing messages: The case of the 2009 Australian bushfires


This study aimed to address a number of defined gaps in existing knowledge by answering the following research questions, looking specifically at the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires.

  1. In the wake of a disastrous event, what is the most and least effective disaster recovery message?
  2. Is there a relationship between the type of recovery message employed and the likelihood and time frame in which the tourist will visit/return to the region?
  3. What is the tourist's attitude toward destination promotion both during and following a disastrous event

Key findings

  • In the case of Bush Fires, a marketing message endorsed by a well-known and well-associated celebrity figure is likely to be most effective in encouraging tourists to return to or visit an affected destination 12 to 24 months following the event.
  • There is a significant relationship between past visitation and the time frame in which visitors will visit a disaster-affected region. Those who had visited the region four times or more were much more likely to return within 6 months of the event than less frequent visitors.

Implications for Practice

  • Relationship marketing should be the focus of the initial promotional activity.
  • Operators need to be encouraged to maintain visitor databases, identify their loyal consumer base, and within the initial 6-month period make contact with their regular clientele to encourage their patronage.
    When marketing a destination affected by bushfires in particular, destination marketers should consider integrating celebrity endorsed messages that communicate community readiness into their post-disaster recovery campaigns.
  • It is important that the chosen celebrity is recognizable by the target market as having some affiliation with the region so potential tourists are able to establish a clear relationship between the region and the celebrity.
  • It is further suggested that the advertising campaign be accompanied by public relations activity in the early stages of development to educate the market about the celebrity-product association and mitigate negative media reports.
  • Post-disaster communications messages need to be factual in nature and provide an honest representation of the region's status.
    Open for business campaigns should not be employed until the community is ready and willing to receive tourists.
  • When this time arises, the open for business style message should be exchanged for a promotional message that communicates community readiness and short-term discounting strategies should not be employed at any time throughout the disaster recovery phase as a means of encouraging visitation.


Publication details


Publication Title:



The effectiveness of post-disaster recovery marketing messages: The case of the 2009 Australian bushfires

Full Publication Reference:


Journal of Tourism and Travel Marketing, 29 1: 87-103.

Publication Author or Authors:

Gabrielle Walters and Judith Mair

Proposed by


Brent Ritchie


07 3346 7308



Associate Professor


University of Queensland