The health of the economies of the Caribbean region is closely related to the health of the Caribbean’s travel and tourism industry given that the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. The ongoing COVID-19 Public Health Emergency of International Concern and the Pandemic proved the necessity for health policies in the tourism sector. COVID-19 was propelled by travel, with the phase of the deadliest variants devastating tourism, resulting in economic instability, and threatened regional health security in the Caribbean.
On April 24, 2023, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)’s Regional Tourism and Health Program (THP) held a Regional Tourism and Health Steering Committee and Stakeholders Meeting at the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island. This meeting, which comes ahead of CARPHA’s 67th Annual Health and Research Conference slated to begin April 27, brought together both local, regional and international public and private health and tourism stakeholders to discuss impact and measures for sustainability of the THP after seven (7) years of implementation. Participants at the meeting included the Chief Medical Officers from 12 Member States, Tourism Authorities and Permanent Secretaries of Tourism, IDB, CHTA, CTO, GTRCMC, CARICOM, CDC, UKHSA and Virgin Atlantic.
The THP is one of CARPHA’s innovative programs that addresses the health, food safety and environmental sanitation (HSE) solutions to the HSE threats impacting on sustainable tourism in the Caribbean through real-time, early warning and response surveillance systems, response, guidelines, capacity building, HSE standards, policy, advocacy and partnerships, and a travellers health award. The goal is to enhance the health, safety and security of citizens and visitors while thereby contributing to the sustainability and resilience of Caribbean tourism and the economies of the States.
The Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon Dr Michael Darville, in his opening remarks, noted that since the implementation of CARPHA’s Regional Tourism and Health Program, the program has yielded many returns and several properties attained the Healthier, Safer Tourism (HST) Stamp. “As Minister of Health and Wellness of The Bahamas, I am excited about CARPHA’s success with this innovative tourism tool, and it is my belief that with additional regional support more is on the horizon”.
Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA, underscored the importance of partnership in the implementation of the Tourism and Health Program. “It is imperative that we collectively support the tourism sector as it evolves to its full potential by ensuring that these partnerships are productive and sustained for the overall safety of citizens and visitors alike,” she said.
And, Director-General of Tourism, Mrs Latia Duncombe said as a participating country, The Bahamas has benefitted from the resources and the capacity building the THP has made available.
Dr. Indar, Director of CARPHA’s Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Division and Head of the Regional Tourism and Health Program, reemphasized the need for sustainable approaches, learning from the current pandemic and past outbreaks. “As we applaud the work of CARPHA’s Member States, their tourism and health sectors as well as our regional and international partners, we need to think about the future; what is next. We need to create environments for the longevity of the THP that will in turn, protect the health and the tourism sustainability in the Caribbean region,” she said.
Stakeholders applauded the major achievements of the THP for implementing visitor-based surveillance and quick response to illness, building capacity for preventing and controlling illnesses, guiding the tourism sector during COVID-19 and making the tourism product healthier and safer. Country users and partners shared many successful outcomes and impacts as a result of implementing the THP at the country-level and regionally. All stakeholders unanimously agreed on the critical importance of continued implementation of the THP for improving health, regional health security and economic recovery.
Mechanisms for continued and sustainable implementation of the Program discussed and agreed on were improved (i) resource mobilization (ii) advocacy, promotion, marketing and branding (iii) institutionalization and efficacy, and (iv) health and tourism public and private partnerships. Participants also agreed on the importance of continued public and private collaboration, the necessary integration of tourism and health sectors, strengthening national surveillance systems through addition of visitor-based surveillance system and inclusion of the THP into country strategic plans. The Program is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through the Regional Tourism and Health Information System Monitoring and Response Systems to enhance Sustainable Tourism (THMRS) Project and is implemented by CARPHA.
To learn more about the program and the conference visit https://www.carpha.org.