64 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, Jamaica
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· Mr. David Dobson, Senior Director, Technical Services, Ministry of Tourism
· Mrs. Sancia Bennett Templar, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health
· Dr. Winston De La Haye, Chief Medical Officer
· Dr. Lisa Indar, Coordinator of CARPHA’s Regional Tourism and Health Programme
· Members of the Media
· Ladies and Gentlemen
· Tourism as an industry is both lucrative and fragile. As in Jamaica, it is central to the national economic development strategies of many countries – it provides earnings for multiple industries and jobs for many thousands. All while ensuring the sustainable development of these nations and improving the standard of living for its citizens.
· Yet, if we do not have a sincere interest in protecting our tourism product there will come a day when we will no longer reap its benefits. Let me explain in more detail...
· The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries. Some 1,235 million travelled the world in 2016, making a global economic contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars.
· Ladies and gentlemen, some 46 million more tourists travelled internationally in 2016 compared to 2015.
· In 2016, Jamaica welcomed 3.8 million visitors (stopover and cruise combined) and earned over US$2.5 billion from tourism.
· We are projecting that visitor arrivals will reach 4.2 million this year; that is five per cent more than last year. And we are well on our way to achieving this target.
· In June, we welcomed the millionth stopover visitor to the island for the year to date. In tandem with this landmark achievement, the tourism sector has also earned in excess of US$1.2 billion for the same period.
· These are certainly great numbers, nationally and globally. They tell us that international travel is vast and on the rise. They also what I said before, that tourism is big business – a critical driver of strong economic growth and job creation, which has a broad and positive effect on the lives of billions globally.
· Yet, tourism remains a fragile industry, highly susceptible to the shocks of economic crises, environmental challenges, warfare, incidents of terrorism, natural disasters and outbreaks of communicable diseases, food-borne illnesses and other health problems.
· As a sector that is inherently vulnerable to perceptions of danger and lack of safety and security, it is possible that in the blink of an eye our tourism fortunes could quickly and dramatically change.
· The consequences of a decline in visitor arrivals and the resultant reduction in earnings as a resultof one of these crises could be devastating for tourism-dependent countries like Jamaica and our sister islands of the Caribbean.
· It would have a crippling multi-sector effect, taking its toll on all whose livelihoods depend on the sector, including hotels, restaurants, attractions as well as the transportation and craft sectors, among others.
· I am therefore heartened by this morning’s launch of the Tourism and Health Programme, which will strengthen Jamaica’s capacity to monitor and respond to health, safety and environmental crises while putting in place clear protocols to protect the industry.
· Prevention is always better than cure – and a lot less expensive too.
· I am even happier that this effort to enhance the health security of our tourism sector is a collaborative effect between the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Health and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), with the financial backing of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
· I am a strong proponent of partnerships and I am confident that this multi-sector approach will result in a more economically viable tourism sector as we seek to develop and define a set of clear objectives regarding health issues within our tourism sector.
HEATH SECURITY & TOURISM SAFETY
· Health and tourism are intrinsically linked and are an integral part of the total “tourist experience” – that is, product quality and visitor satisfaction.
· I mentioned the millions of people that traverse the globe annually. As a result, it is easy for visitors to spread diseases from one part of the world to another. Destinations like Jamaica are exposed to the risk of contagion from various illnesses and infections such as influenza, and malaria.
· Hence a proper health care system and appropriate safeguards are needed to handle these cases.
· In addition, potential visitors have concerns about health and food safety. Therefore, we must be concerned about health standards in food preparation and the transfer of health problems from local tourism employees to visitors and vice versa.
· The adverse effects on the health of tourists could significantly tarnish the resulting experience and the reputation of destination Jamaica.
· The bottom line is that the growth and sustainability our tourism product faces Health, Safety and Environmental Sanitation (HSE) threats that could contributing to declined tourist arrivals, and without adequate information management systems, standards and training, these threats can become a severe tourism crisis.
· 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 new Tourism and Health Programme.
· The existence of proper health-care infrastructure such as hospitals and equipment coupled with the expertise to handle emergencies will also play a vital role in making our destination more competitive and attractive, as persons will be more willing to visit a destination they know has the facilities and expertise to deal with medical emergencies they may encounter.
· To date, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) has expended some J$724 million in the health sector to purchase equipment, improve services and upgrade our local health facilities, in keeping with the commitment of the Ministry of Tourism to play an active and vigilant role in the protection and preservation of Jamaica’s health environment.
· This sum includes:
§ $250 million to facilitate an island wide response programme to the threat of ZikV
§ $21 million to purchase fogging machines for vector control operations in Westmoreland, Hanover, St. James and Trelawny
§ $226.4 million to construct a Trauma Centre in the West
§ $6.7 million to purchase an ambulance for the Negril resort area
· The Ministries of Tourism and Health have had a long and mutually rewarding partnership. Our partnership goes beyond the presentation of gifts and monetary contributions.
· It is based on a broader basis of securing destination Jamaica, of making our people healthier and creating an environment that is conducive to healthy experiences for our visitors. We must maintain this partnership in order to ensure that health remains a national priority.
DESTINATION ASSURANCE COUNCILS
· My Ministry and our agencies are taking seriously the need to enhance the country's overall visitor experience so that we can guarantee a safe, secure and seamless vacation. Visitors should not have to second guess the quality of our tourism product or our health services.
· Of course, crucial to the effective development of our tourism product is destination assurance, which ensures our credibility in the marketplace.
· To that end, our Destination Assurance Councils in the six resort areas of Negril; Montego Bay; Falmouth; St. Ann and St. Mary; Portland and St. Thomas; and Kingston and the South Coast – will have an integral role to play in ensuring that the quality, integrity and standards – including health standards – of Jamaica’s tourism product are maintained.
UNWTO GOJ GLOBAL CONFERENCE
· I believe that tourism can only be considered truly sustainable if it generates income and decent employment, stimulates trade and linkages, and respects and protects our natural and cultural environment.
· My Ministry and it agencies have always championed a sustainable and inclusive tourism sector and as we celebrate 2017 as the United Nation’s (UN) International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, we continue to look for new and creative ways to fully embrace the principles of sustainability. Today’s launch of the Tourism Health Information System ties in neatly with Jamaica’s efforts.
· Our year of activities will culminate in UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, which will be held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from November 27 – 29, 2017.
· This is a historic event as this will be the first time that the UNWTO and its affiliate members will be staging a world conference on tourism in the Caribbean or for that matter the entire Western Hemisphere.
· The conference is attracting many leaders from government, multilateral organizations, international financial agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, cruise lines, other tourism entities and, of course, local businesses including small and medium tourism enterprises.
· Given the region’s dependency on tourism, it was important that such a conference provide solutions on how the Caribbean can better leverage this industry. Tourism is the single largest generator of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean and the sector receiving the most foreign direct investment (FDI).
· In addition, the region has a higher proportion of total employment and percentage of GDP derived from tourism than any other region in the world.
· A major outcome of the conference will be the creation of a Montego Bay Declaration, which will be used as a road map to strengthen public-private-partnerships and enhance donor funding and investor engagement. This will create the framework for more responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
· Ladies and gentlemen, our tourism sector has significant potential but it will only flourish if we work as partners in building and sustaining it. I am confident that this collaborative multi-sector approach geared at strengthening the links between tourism, health and environment which result in a more resilient and sustainable tourism sector in Jamaica.