Tourism growth and sustainability in the Caribbean are prone to health, safety and environmental threats, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This can contribute to reduced tourism arrivals which in turn impacts those whose livelihoods depend on the sector, and possibly lead to adverse economic and social burdens.
To ensure the health and safety of its visitors and residents alike, Saint Lucia’s Ministries of Health and Tourism, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) launched the island’s Tourism and Health Programme (THP). The event, which took place on September 18th, 2021, was marked by the presence of officials from the OECS, Ministries of Tourism and Health, and CARPHA staff.
CARPHA’s Regional THP initiative is designed to strengthen the Region's capacity to respond to public health threats, improve the health and safety standards and enhance tourism resilience policy in the hospitality sector. In her opening remarks Dr. Lisa Indar, CARPHA Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, pointed out that "The Tourism and Health Program supports the livelihoods of thousands and contributes to enhancing the safety, quality, competitiveness, reputation, and sustainability of Caribbean tourism.”
Discussions between CARPHA and the OECS in 2017 set the pace for implementing the THP in Eastern Caribbean States, which was later supported and funded by the World Bank-OECS Regional Health Project. Recently, CARPHA and the OECS signed a Letter of Agreement. Dr. Didacus Jules, OECS Commission Director-General, said, "As tourism-dependent nations, this initiative is key to optimizing sector-wide recovery efforts and promoting the OECS as a healthier, safer destination as countries reopen to tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During the week-long mission, the CARPHA team conducted a re-sensitization session for industry operators on the Tourism Health Information System (THiS), to ensure persons were well equipped to utilize the platform, which is a key requirement to obtaining the Caribbean Traveller’s Health Assurance Stamp for Healthier Safer Tourism. The Agency also facilitated a three-day Advanced Food Safety Training Certification Workshop for environmental health officers, hoteliers and restaurateurs. This training afforded 29 participants the opportunity to enhance and expand their knowledge of key food safety practices that help reduce the occurrence of foodborne disease outbreaks in the tourism sector.
Given the recent resumption of cruise ship sailing in the Caribbean, a consultation with the Ministry of Health Officials, Port Health Officers and Cruise Agents was convened to discuss enhanced protocols for surveillance and response to public health events occurring on cruise vessels. The CARPHA delegation met with the Chief Medical Officer and surveillance staff, the Permanent Secretary and others from the Ministry of Tourism and the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, to solidify a country action plan for Saint Lucia's rollout of the THP. The meeting identified a clear roadmap for strategic marketing to allow for a healthier, safer, and more sustainable tourism industry in Saint Lucia.
Through funding by the World Bank, CARPHA and the OECS are all committed to promoting a healthy, safe, secure product for sustainable tourism and to provide an authentic and meaningful experience for travellers to the Caribbean Region.
Funding for the mission to Saint Lucia was provided by the World Bank through the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Regional Health Project.
Saint Lucia is one of four beneficiary-countries of the Project. The other countries are Dominica, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. CARPHA is serving as the Executing Agency for this five-year Project which has a value of US$6,600,000.00 and seeks to enhance the National Health System and Health Security of these countries. More about the World Bank-OECS Regional Health Project