…as regional tourism sustainability highlighted at forum
Regular monitoring and surveillance has been placed on the regional front burner to help protect the health of nationals and visitors to the Caribbean. This assertion was yesterday made by Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence.
The Minister was at the time delivering the keynote address at the start of a two-day Guyana Tourism and Health Stakeholder Meeting and Training Workshop, jointly undertaken by the Ministries of Public Health and Tourism in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency [CARPHA].
At the Inter-American Development Bank [IDB]-sponsored event she pointed out, “For many of us in the Caribbean, tourism contributes substantially to the economic wellbeing of our countries.”
“In order to keep Tourism sustainable, it is imperative that constant monitoring and surveillance are prioritised, so that we keep a firm grip on the safety and security risks to health of both our locals and visitor populations as the influx of the latter, from various destinations, is in increasing numbers,” Lawrence said.
The Caribbean has indeed been attracting visitors in increasing numbers with some 247,330 travelling to various destinations in 2017, according to Ms. Carla James, Deputy Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority [GTA]. The figure, James said, represents a five percent increase over that of 2016.
On the other hand, it was Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, who highlighted that more than 80 flights into the country’s interior take place daily from the Eugene Correia Airport at Ogle on the East Coast Demerara corridor.
“We want to improve our hospitality service by ensuring safe foods,” Dr. Persaud said.
With bourgeoning tourist arrivals, Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean must improve their capacity to respond to public health threats transcending national boundaries, thereby improving the health and safety of nationals and visitors, Lawrence observed.
She said that the 2017 launch of the Tourism and Health Programme [THP] was a pre-emptive move in a bid to make the Guyana and the wider Caribbean “a healthier, safer, secure tourist destination.”
The two-day workshop is part of a wider Caribbean tourism sector plan to re-sensitise key stakeholders on issues connected to THP, as well as train them in the use of the Tourism and Health Information System [THIS] and Regional Guidelines for those operating in the lucrative sector.
THP, Lawrence noted, is a novel, innovative and integrated programme with components of early warning and response tourism surveillance systems, food safety, environmental sanitation training, standards and multi-sectoral partnerships.
“The monitoring system is unique, in that it involves new, non-traditional health information, that is, it will encompass tourism/visitor-based illnesses, new clients/data users, which include private sector, hotels, cruise ships, visitors and new partners such as the Ministry of Business, Tourism Authorities and Agencies,” Lawrence explained.
She reminded the gathering that “the onus is on the resource facilitators to ensure that stakeholders become familiar and buy in to the Regional Tourism and Health Programme, the Tourism and Health Information System and the Regional Guidelines.”
Guyana’s commitment to sustainable tourism activities was reiterated by Lawrence during her address when she reminded participants that “this South American country is well positioned to offer an enriching experience with its stimulatingly rich and unique cultural fusion, diversity and untouched, pristine rainforest and natural wonders waiting to be tapped.”
Nevertheless, she added, “we cannot close our eyes to the realities of the world; it is riddled by illness and disease, so even as we implement strategies to boost our tourist industry, we must pay careful attention also to the health aspect”.
The THP event will revolve around promoting the health, safety and security of visitors and nationals in an effort to help enhance the quality, competitiveness and reputation of Caribbean tourism.
It is expected to help bridge existing gaps between the health and tourism sectors, since a negative health event will affect even the flow of business, said Dr. Lisa Indar, Head of CARPHA’s Tourism and Health Programme and Food-borne Diseases.
“We want to promote better quality tourism [and] everything is to your advantage,” Dr. Indar said.
By the end of yesterday’s programme it was expected that a draft Plan of Action would have been available outlining all relevant aspects for implementing THP in Guyana.
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