Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, 26 July, 2023 - On Monday 17 July 2023, the Ministry of Health and Human Services and the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Fisheries and Marine Affairs, Culture and Heritage, Agriculture and Religious Affairs welcomed Dr Lisa Indar, Director of Surveillance Disease Prevention and Control Division and Mr Keston Daniel, Epidemiologist at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). The team engaged in a high ministerial meeting and meetings on the Regional Tourism and Health Program (THP) and reinvigorating the TCI THP.
The THP is one of CARPHA’s innovative programs that address the health, food safety and environmental sanitation (HSE) solutions to the HSE threats impacting sustainable tourism in the Caribbean through real-time, early warning and response surveillance systems, response, guidelines, capacity building, HSE standards, policy, advocacy and partnerships, and a traveller’s health award. The goal is to enhance the health, safety and security of citizens and visitors while thereby contributing to the sustainability and resilience of Caribbean tourism and the economies of the States. The TCI was the first to launch the THP program in 2016, given its high dependence on tourism and the importance of THP for elevating its tourism product as a healthier, safer, and more competitive product.
On Tuesday, 18 July 2023 at Opus, Providenciales, the team facilitated training in Infectious Disease Prevention and Control for the Hospitality Sector. There were 2 sessions on THP sensitization and Tourism Health Information System (THiS) training, registration and reporting for the tourism sector on 18 and 20 July 2023. Visits were made to the laboratories, and discussions were held on enhancing early warning and response systems to mitigate the spread of illnesses and thereby protect the health of both local and visitor populations, as well as to strengthen food and water testing in the TCI.
Partner in the initiative, Stacy Cox, CEO of the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association (TCHTA) stated, “as a country, health and food safety are critical to the protection of our visitors and residents. CARPHA’s comprehensive reporting system is a vital tool for the mitigation of widespread and possibly detrimental effects that a public health event can have on a country of our size. As such, the industry is excited about the relaunch of the Tourism & Health Information System Training Program. The knowledge that our member properties and businesses gain through this training not only benefits the establishments, but positions Turks & Caicos as a destination that prioritizes health and safety, leading to increased confidence from the travelling public. It is simply invaluable, and we are thankful to Dr. Indar, the CARPHA supporting team, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Ministry of Health for this partnership.”
The Minister of Health, Hon. Shaun Malcolm noted “that the growth and sustainability of our tourism product faces Health, Safety and Environmental Sanitation (HSE) threats that could negatively impact tourist arrivals, and without adequate information management systems, standards and training, these threats can become a severe tourism crisis. He pointed out that, “If we are to sustain our tourism product, efforts must be made to monitor and respond to travel-related illnesses and to support the implementation of proper health and environmental sanitation practices. These are some of the concerns that will be addressed by the relaunching of the Tourism and Health Programme”.
The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Josephine Connolly expressed pleasure in hosting the team, stating, "I am certain that this visit has renewed interest in the role that frontline workers play in protecting both visitors and residents. The Turks and Caicos Islands must strengthen our approach to disease prevention across all sectors of the tourism industry. We must ensure safeguards such as the THiS are in place, bringing impartiality to rating the quality of our tourism products."
The visit climaxed with a Press Conference at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, 21 July 2023 at the Ministry of Tourism’s Conference Room, Providenciales. A synopsis of the program was given and both ministries, alongside the TCHTA, pledged support for the initiative. The team finalized their visit with a Steering Committee meeting and debriefing. It is anticipated that this partnership will only strengthen as the program has brought renewed interest in the various roles in health surveillance of the destination.