TOURISM growth and sustainability in the Caribbean face serious health, safety and environmental (HSE) threats, including disease outbreaks and deficiencies in food safety and environmental sanitation. This contributes to reduced tourism arrivals which in turn impacts those whose livelihoods depend on the sector, and possibly lead to adverse economic and social burdens.
Recognizing the critical need for public-private cross-sectoral partnership to address these HSE threats and to ensure the health and safety of its visitors and residents, the Ministry of Public Health (Guyana) and the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) launched the Tourism and Health Programme under the theme “Your Experience, Your Health, Your Safety Matters”.
The opening ceremony of the launch took place on Tuesday at the Umana Yana and was marked by the presence of the Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, and other high-level officials and chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr.ShamdeoPersad.
In her opening remarks Dr. Lisa Indar, Head of CARPHA’s Regional Tourism and Health Programme, said Guyana’s launch theme reflected the country’s strong commitment towards tourism and health. She said as Guyana positions itself as a leading eco-tourism destination, it cannot afford the reputational damage as a consequence of adverse public health events impacting on its tourism product and on the health of its visitors and local population.
In addressing the gathering, Dr. C. James Hospedales, CARPHA Executive Director, said: “Travel and tourism is the ‘business of the Caribbean’ and we are the most tourism-dependent region in the world. However, the industry is vulnerable to a range of HSE threats and the intensity of movement of residents and visitors is now a significant regional health security issue. Solutions to improve industry quality and competitiveness include attention to health monitoring and response, food safety and environment sanitation. These require a multi-sectoral approach to implementation.”
Guyana recognizes the need to strengthen its country’s capacity in order monitor and respond to health, safety and environmental outbreaks.
Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority, IndranauthHaralsingh, congratulated CARPHA for the initiative and stated that the GTA sees the Tourism and Health Programme as an intervention that is critically needed and is committed to improving safety, security and standards in tourism. The programme’s health surveillance system and capacity building will positively impact Guyana’s reputation and provide the country with a competitive advantage, he said.
Dr. Karen Cummings, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, said she was “delighted by the multi-sectoral collaboration and that this tourism and health synergy is aimed at making the country’s tourism industry economically viable as it seeks to match the Regional and International Standard of Hotel Service and Hospitality while ensuring that the requisite health requirements are embodied in the programme.”
She said the launch of the THP was timely and fitting as it envisioned the establishment of a web-based disease surveillance system for hotels, training of hospitality staff to report events, and training and certification of hotel staff on food safety and hygiene.
Enhancing sustainable tourism promotes economic development, poverty eradication and improvement of quality of life in Caribbean countries. It is critical, therefore, that to sustain Caribbean tourism efforts be made to monitor and respond to travel-related illnesses and support tourism to adopt proper health and environmental sanitation practices.
The launch was one of several events taking place prior to the 62nd CARPHA Annual Health Research Conference which is jointly hosted by the Government of Guyana and CARPHA. The conference runs from April 27-29.
In January 2014, CARPHA, in collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), established the Regional Tourism and Health Programme to address the Health, Safety and Environmental Sanitation (HSE) threats in tourism. The aim is to improve the health and safety of visitors and locals, thereby contributing to Caribbean tourism being more competitive, resilient and sustainable.