Tourism is highly vulnerable to external, non‐controllable events. A natural disaster can affect the local tourism industry in numerous ways, and such events are particularly devastating for small communities whose local economy is heavily dependent on the sector. Loss of infrastructure plus negative media stories can have long‐term ramifications for the destination. In spite of the economic importance of tourism, post‐disaster recovery efforts in this sector are often overlooked by non‐governmental organisations (NGOs), which focus on more traditional livelihoods such as agriculture or fishing. This paper describes Mercy Corps’ support of tourism recovery activities in Arugam Bay, a remote village on the east coast of Sri Lanka, following the 2004 tsunami. The local economic base is built largely on two sectors: community tourism and fishing. As many other actors were supporting recovery in the local fishing industry, Mercy Corps concentrated on revitalising the tourism sector.