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Jun 25, 2019

A Review of Health and Tourism Programme in Belize

Outbreaks of communicable diseases, environmental challenges, poor health and wellness in the tourism workforce can result in closures of hotels and cruise ports which can lead to significant losses in revenue. These are some of the driving forces behind the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation partnering to address issues affecting health and tourism in the Caribbean region. They have since launched a regional initiative called the Tourism and Health Programme geared at strengthening the links between tourism, health and environment for more resilient and sustainable tourism in the Caribbean. Belize launched the program two years ago and today CARPHA held a meeting with stakeholders to assess its implementation. Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more in the following story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Forty percent of Belize’s G.D.P. comes from tourism. Like Belize, most of the region is tourism-dependent, so the health of Caribbean economies is closely tied to the health of the tourism industry. But tourism is vulnerable to health and safety threats such as diseases, unsafe foods and deficiencies in environmental sanitation. So back in 2016, Belize signed on to CARPHA’s Tourism and Health Programme. It is a regional early warning health system that aims to monitor visitors’ signs of illnesses and it immediately alerts health officials. Doctor Lisa Indar of CARPHA is in Belize to follow up on Belize’s implementation of this programme.

 

Lisa Indar

Dr. Lisa Indar, Head of Tourism & Health Programme, CARPHA

“Belize started this programme in 2016. They are doing pretty good. The programme is geared towards really improving the health and safety not just for travelers but our local population. So, today we are following up with things that we have done and how we can progress more to ensure that hotels are registered; that if we have an illness that we respond quickly. More importantly, building capacity in food safety training and standards and so and generally that the product we are giving is a healthier, safer product.”

 

This health surveillance system is being used to track signs and symptoms of an illness. CARPHA and the Ministry of Health say that the Tourism and Health Information System is highly confidential. It doesn’t collect names or any other identifying information from visitors or staff. To date, thirty-seven properties have signed on to the programme in the Cayo and Belize districts. Antonio Hegar of the Ministry of Health explains how this system works.

 

Antonio Hegar

Antonio Hegar, Epidemiologist, M.O.H.

“The system is designed to be installed in computers at local hotels and resorts. It is only accessible to managers. They are briefed about the signs and symptoms to look out for. They in turn collect information and that is connected to us and in turn analyzed by us.  We actually have a list of signs and symptoms for managers to look out for; gastro; neurological; fevers; and the idea is not for the hotel and staff to make a diagnoses but to indicate that they have seen something in terms of patients or the staff.   There are two basic routes that we would take; it if passes a threshold we would send out a team to investigate or if it is below the threshold, we would get in touch with the hotels to ensure that there is nothing unusual in any of the cases they are reporting.”

 

Doctor Indar explains how this system can help participating countries respond to improve health, safety and security of visitors and locals in the tourism industry and ultimately helps to safeguard the tourism industry.

 

Dr. Lisa Indar

“If you have negative publicity and people getting sick – look at what is happening with measles and what is happening with DR – it brings you negative reputation and then there is cancellation so obviously your tourism product suffers. So, this program is to create a safer, healthier product so that we improve your reputation and make sure tourism is sustainable. They implementing and can easily pick up something quickly and they are stopping it; putting measures in place so that you don’t have increase, negative publicity, or law suits on your hands.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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