Stakeholders gathered today at an Inter-sectoral Tourism and Health Workshop to discuss and work towards ensuring that there is a system in place which will address health issues arising from tourists visiting Guyana.
Minister of Business with responsibility for Tourism, Dominic Gaskin
This workshop, held at the Regency Suites, was a collaborative venture among the Ministries of Business and Public Health and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
The workshop focused on areas of surveillance, capacity building, standards and a healthy work force relating to tourists visiting the country and saw participants from the hotel industry, tour operators, and restaurants among others.
Addressing the workshop, Minister of Business with responsibility for Tourism, Dominic Gaskin said that a sick nation cannot sustain a work force or economy, neither development nor sustainable tourism can take place outside of a healthy nation.
“Guyana does not have such an established tourism sector and is not that reliant on that sector for our economic growth and development, nevertheless this is a priority sector for our government,” Minister Gaskin pointed out.
The Minister noted that the country is preparing for an increase in visitors and growth and development in the sector. He elaborated that “we cannot ignore the fact that Guyana is a small country with a small population and it would not take a huge epidemic to wipe us out, so if we are to have more people coming to Guyana we must also ensure that there is sufficient safeguard to provide for adequate intervention in the event of an outbreak of a transmission of diseases in and out of Guyana.”
CARPHA’s Representative Dr. Lisa Indar
CARPHA’s representative Dr. Lisa Indar noted that Guyana is important to the Caribbean, and CARPHA has been working with this country for the last 15 years. She said that the aim of the workshop is to make Guyana a safer place, not just for tourists, but for locals as well.
“It is important for us to develop and have a system in place that can be implemented in the event that something happens as it relates to tourists’ health and the image of the tourism in that country,” Dr. Indar said.
Dr. Indar pointed out that some of the challenges that are facing sustainable tourism in the Caribbean currently are the health of Caribbean economies which is closely related to the health of its tourism industry since Caribbean is tourism- dependent.
Reduced tourist numbers can contribute to adverse economic and social burden on Caribbean economies among other challenges, she pointed out. On the other hand, enhancing sustainable tourism would promote economic development, poverty eradication and improvement of quality of life.
Some of the components of the Regional Tourism and Health Programme (THP) are:
Regional Tourism Health Information, Surveillance, Monitoring (early warning) and Response system (THMRS)– which is web-based and real time tourism surveillance system for early alerts and response to negative events; regional protocol/guidelines for managing illnesses in tourism for stay over hotels/guest houses and cruise ships among others.
Health, Safety and Environmental Sanitation (HSE) Standards and Certification- HSE standards are crucial for promoting healthier, safer better quality tourism products. This component will review national, regional and foreign best practices and update the existing regional standards to meet current regional and international HSE.
Food Safety and Environmental Sanitation Training and Certification-This includes advanced food and environmental safety and certification; investigation, prevention, and control of outbreaks, department specific food safety training and pathogen-specific training.
Participants who attended the Intersectoral Tourism and Health Workshop
Benefits of such a system include- fewer, less costly outbreaks/adverse health events in tourism, safer, healthier, better quality tourism
product and destination, enhanced capacity in food safety, health and environment sanitation among others.
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 of this is to improve the health and safety of visitors, and locals, thereby contributing to Caribbean tourism being more competitive, resilient and sustainable.