Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. January 27, 2016. The Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world, receiving a record 26.3 million stay over arrivals in 2014.
These high levels of travel which bring so many economic benefits, can bring different health, social and environmental challenges, including the possible international spread of disease.
In this regard, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) signed an Agreement on January 27, 2016 with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that will allow the Agency to develop a novel regional tourism health information, monitoring and response system; Caribbean-wide health, safety and environmental (HSE) tourism standards; and a training and certification programme to build capacity in food and environmental safety.
In signing this landmark Agreement, CARPHA will work along with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) to execute the project.
Dr Lisa Indar, the head of the Tourism and Health program at CARPHA indicated that “the key benefit of this project will be fewer, less costly outbreaks and other negative public health events occurring in the tourism industry and thereby a healthier, safer, more reputable Caribbean for both visitors and locals”
Dr C James Hospedales, CARPHA’s Executive Director, pointed out that “the project will contribute also to improving regional health security in the face of new and re-emerging threats to health of residents and visitors through strengthening member states’ ability to achieve and sustain the capacities under the International Health Regulations for monitoring and response systems.”
Mr. Julian Belgrave, Chief Operations Officer at the Trinidad and Tobago IDB Country Office, stated that this project is a critical component to the development of population wellness for Caribbean people, as well as preserving the health of 25 million visitors.
In his remarks, CTO Chief Executive Officer, Hugh Riley, welcomed this initiative and pledged full support and collaboration in executing the project, stating “there is no better time than now, for the Caribbean to be creating a mechanism for monitoring and responding to health threats.”
The Chief Executive Officer of CHTA, Mr Frank Comito emphasized that “the health and safety of our guests and employees has been a longstanding priority for the hospitality industry and that this project will help to achieve this priority.
The Minister of Tourism for Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Ms. Shamfa Cudjoe in her feature address said there is an important interconnection between tourism, public health, environmental sanitation and safety and sees the project providing the countries with a healthier, safer improved tourism product.
The Regional Tourism Health Information, Monitoring and Response Systems and Standards to Enhance Sustainable Tourism project will be executed in six participating countries (Barbados, Belize, Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago) from 2016-2019.
The project will be implemented under CARPHA’s Tourism and Health Programme, through a Project Coordination Unit (PCU) at CARPHA and a Regional Project Steering Committee, along with National Focal Points and a Private-Public Team in each country.
The Project is being funded by the IDB to the tune of US$ 800,000.