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CARPHA and the OECS collaborate for healthier, safer tourism

CARPHA and the OECS collaborate for healthier, safer tourism
DR LISA INDAR, (left) CARPHA’s Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, and OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules

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THE CARIBBEAN Public Health Agency (CARPHA), through its Regional Tourism and Health Program, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, are seeking to restore travellers’ confidence in the Eastern Caribbean.

In a release the OECS Commission said it is committed to supporting the implementation of CARPHA’s Tourism and Health Program (THP) in its Member States and in so doing formalized its collaboration through the signing of a Letter of Agreement at the OECS Commission’s headquarters in St Lucia on Friday, September 17, 2021.

The novel Tourism and Health Programme (THP) is expected to support a travel and tourism product that is safe, secure, and provides an authentic and meaningful experience to travellers to the region whilst protecting the health and wellbeing of locals. The programme is expected to align the private sector to robust common standards to ensure the safety of its workforce and travellers, making the sector more responsive to the new “COVID-19 normal”, as well as emerging health threats. This includes:

• Healthier, safer, better quality tourism product and destination

• Enhanced capacity in food safety, health & environment sanitation

• Industry-wide, real- time tourism early warning and response surveillance system (THiS) to avoid and reduce illness spread and negative publicity.

• Increase in the reputation, comparative advantage, hence marketability of travel and tourism in the OECS.

Dr Lisa Indar, CARPHA’s Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, speaking during CARPHA’s recent courtesy call on the OECS Director General, said: “The THP supports the livelihoods of thousands and contributes to enhancing the safety, quality, competitiveness, reputation, resilience and sustainability of Caribbean tourism.”

Dr. Indar stressed that, “People need to feel assured that when the traffic light system does change, they can choose a healthier, safer option by coming to the Caribbean.”

OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules said that, “As tourism-dependent nations, this initiative is key to optimising recovery efforts and promoting the OECS as a healthier, safer destination as countries reopen to tourism. This process with CARPHA started back in 2017 with the endorsement of the OECS Council of Ministers of Health and was later supported by the OECS Council of Ministers of Tourism in 2018. It is important to note that our modus operandi is to work cross-functionally. The endorsement of both Ministerial Councils was an important principle in ensuring the effectiveness of the initiative. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the critical importance of implementing the programme. We commend St Lucia for being the first OECS country to fully commit to the process of implementation.”

The THP addresses threats impacting sustainable tourism in the Caribbean through an integrated approach of combining surveillance (real-time tourism monitoring system for early alerts and response, regional guidelines for managing illnesses); Capacity building (certification crucial for promoting a healthier, safer, and better-quality tourism product); Health, Safety and Environmental Standards; Healthy workforce (training to support prevention, appropriate response and mitigation of illnesses and outbreaks) and Recognition (awarding of the Health Safer Tourism (HST) stamp). This is a robust, measurable and verifiable travellers’ health assurance and recognition award for tourism entities and destinations that are implementing the THP’s proactive health measures for tourism. The stamp has received the backing of the Caribbean Health and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Association (CTO).

Across the OECS Member States, THP now has over 670 tourism facilities registered on THiS; 6,662 tourism sector workers have been trained in CARPHA’s COVID-19 Guidelines for Reopening of Caribbean Tourism and Travel; and 59 facilities have been awarded the HST Stamp.