Tourism Minister: Caribbean open for enterprise with traveller stamp

Tourism Secretary Randall Mitchell said CARPHA’s new stamp and safe traveler app showed T&T and the region are open to business.

He spoke on Thursday at the launch event for the Caribbean Travelers Health Assurance stamp for Healthier Safer Tourism (HST) and The Caribbean Traveler’s Health Mobile App.

Mitchell described the tools as a significant step in the fight against COVID-19 and in preparation for a post-pandemic economy. He noted that health travel and tourism were the first to be hit by the pandemic, and he predicted that they would be the last to recover.

“The sector was devastated.”

He said during the recovery process, the two services will have travelers to the area having confidence in the knowledge that the destinations are safe and healthy spaces.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Roshan Parsaram said CARPHA’s proactive steps would build traveler confidence and boost the tourism climate. He stressed that while economic activity needs to be revived, there needs to be a new blueprint due to the pandemic. He said the new instruments would not only boost tourism but also help the public health sector by reducing transmission.

He reported in Trinidad and Tobago that the COVID-19 positivity rate among returning nationals was 10 percent and this was handled carefully. He said that when the country reopens its borders, the two CARPHA mechanisms will be effective tools for Trinidad and Tobago as well as for countries that have already opened their borders.

Frank Comito, CEO and General Manager of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), thanked CARPHA in his remarks for its proactive role in ensuring the health and safety of visitors, employees and residents.

He said collectively that every effort will be made to reassure visitors that they can travel to the Caribbean with confidence. He stressed that health safety for travelers is a top priority when choosing a travel destination.

“The tools CARPHA shares with you today have reinforced the health and safety efforts of our industry.”

He added, “If travelers want to flee to the Caribbean to recover from the stresses of the pandemic, they too can help accelerate our economic recovery, reopen our businesses and recruit our employees after the Starving opportunity to offer this legendary Caribbean hospitality. ”

He said that through the CARPHA initiatives and industry commitment to health and safety, visitors can plan a “wellness getaway” to the Caribbean.

“And you can travel with confidence.”

Neil Walters, acting secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), said the CTO has worked with CARPHA for six years and on issues such as Zika and Chikungunya. He said the pandemic has put more focus on the need for closer collaboration between tourism and health.

“We (in the region) are actually ahead of the rest of the world and have forged (this collaboration) over many years.

He said the agencies have made great strides in protocols and guidelines to ensure the health of residents and visitors as countries open to international travel. He described the new CARPHA tools as key mechanisms to ensure their health and safety for potential travelers as they plan their trip.

“We will be an oasis of health and safety in this international crisis.”

Sandals Resorts International vice chairman Adam Stewart said 2020 had been a very difficult year and with the Caribbean being the most tourism-dependent region, the pandemic had decimated the industry. He emphasized the importance of giving customers and travelers confidence in the health situation, and said Sandals had trained all team members on the necessary guidelines.

With the new CARPHA tools, he encouraged all hoteliers to get on board.

“The Caribbean is one of the most resilient regions in the world, and we will be deconstructing more.”

Dr. CARPHA Executive Director Joy St. John said amid the global pandemic, when travel and tourism all but stopped, she was glad the Traveller’s Health Program (THP) is paving the way back to the Caribbean’s economic recovery. She said the tools are CARPHA’s contribution to “regional armaments” to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and are important measures to host COVID-19 and other public health threats as they evolve in the future.

The stamp is a measurable and verifiable recognition award for tourism businesses and destinations that implement recommended proactive COVID-19 health monitoring and safety measures.

Caribbean Traveler’s Health Mobile App is a unique, multi-faceted repository of health information designed for travelers and health and tourism stakeholders.

It provides travel health information by Caribbean destinations (including vaccination requirements, health facilities, listings of accommodation), health alerts on current public health issues, proactive COVID-19 measures / prevention, and travel requirements by country (testing, health care, pre-authorization and follow-up).

The app is directly linked to CARPHA’s COVID-19 situation reports, guidelines and THP. The app also identifies accommodations and other hotel facilities within a destination that have been stamped with the Caribbean Travel Health Insurance.

Dr. Lisa Indar, CARPHA’s director of surveillance disease prevention and control, said the new tourism tools would raise Caribbean tourism to pristine levels, build traveler confidence, and restore safe and healthy travel to the area, especially during COVID-19 -Time. She added that this will set the Caribbean apart from others around the world.