Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence expressed today that she wants regular monitoring on the regional front burner to help protect the health of nationals and visitors to the Caribbean.
She made this clear at the two-day Guyana Tourism and Health Stakeholder Meeting and Training Workshop which opened today. It is jointly undertaken by the Ministries of Public Health and Tourism in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
The workshop is sponsored by the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB).
“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,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence also shared that the Caribbean has been attracting visitors in increasing numbers with some 247,330 travelling to various destinations in 2017. She said that this is a five percent increase over 2016 figures.
With bourgeoning tourist arrivals, Lawrence said that 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.
The Public Health Minister said that the 2017 launch of the Tourism and Health Programme (THP) was a pre-emptive move in a bid to make Guyana and the wider Caribbean a healthier and secure tourist destination.
Further to this, Lawrence said that 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 an innovative programme with components of early warning and response tourism surveillance system, 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 into the Regional Tourism and Health Programme, the Tourism and Health Information System and the Regional Guidelines.