hugh_riley(BRIDGETOWN, Barbados) 19 May 2014The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) – the region’s tourism development agency charged with leading the Caribbean’s sustainable tourism development – and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the regional public health agency established by CARICOM, have agreed a plan to address health, safety and environmental (HSE) issues that threaten the sustainability of Caribbean tourism industry.

This partnership will benefit member countries through greater mutual understanding, and collaboration, as well as strong public-private sector intersectoral partnerships at national and regional levels between tourism, health and environment stakeholders supporting  a cohesive and coordinated approach to combatting adverse health, safety and environmental incidents, the two organizations said.

Food and water-borne illnesses are the most common illnesses among travellers to the Caribbean resulting in losses of over US$250 million to the hotel sector between 2000 and 2005, according to CARPHA. Between 2003 and 2013 there were 28 diarrheal outbreaks on Caribbean cruises, CARPHA adds.

“Health and safety issues pose serious threats and are cross cutting factors that significantly influence the quality, competitiveness and sustainability of Caribbean tourism. Addressing these issues collectively is important to safeguard tourism development in the region,” said Dr. C James Hospedales, the executive director of the Trinidad & Tobago headquartered CARPHA.

“In order for tourism to be sustainable we must keep the right balance among economic, health and environmental interests, which requires the full support of all the key partners,” added Hugh Riley, the CTO’s secretary general and chief executive officer. “This agreement with CARPHA is a demonstration of our commitment to lead sustainable tourism and to help strengthen our members’ reputation, comparative advantage and resilience by facilitating safer and healthier destinations.”

Other anticipated benefits of this arrangement include fewer and less costly outbreaks in the tourism industry;  strengthened human resource capacity and skills in health, food safety, and environmental management; a healthier and more productive workforce; improved coastal and recreational water quality;  industry-wide, hotel and cruise ship based public health surveillance, information and monitoring systems; and fewer work-related accidents and incidents.

The two organizations have agreed to promote multisectoral and multiagency collaboration among stakeholders to address the critical link between tourism and health; develop strong multisectoral public private partnership, networks and business strategies for the sustainability of the tourism industry;  implement food and environmental safety training  and certification in tourism sector;  develop and implement sustainable  public health surveillance, monitoring and response systems for hotels and cruise ships; establish a health, safety and environmental standards certification and recognition system and implement a health and wellness programme in the tourism workplace.

The programme will be executed and coordinated at a regional level by CARPHA in collaboration with the CTO.

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