The Inter American Development Bank and the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA) are funding a US$2 million Caribbean Tourism Health, Safety and Resource Conservation Project which will be piloted in the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago
The objective of the three-year programme is to improve the quality and competitiveness of Caribbean hotels through quality standards, systems and registrations designed to ensure a healthy, safe and environmentally considerate product for guests and staff. The underlying health and tourism issue in the Caribbean is the fact that the region's Ministries of Health have not been able to keep up with the rapid expansion of the industry and establish adequate public health monitoring procedures.
Also, there are no standardised criteria for assessing and ranking tourism services, which makes it difficult for consumers to make informed choices between countries.
Current quality assessment criteria and national standards are based more on 'front of the house' characteristics than the conditions 'back of the house', which are more relevant to public and environmental health.
As a result of the 1994 European Community directive relating to package tours, European operators can be held liable for booking tourists into places which do not comply with basic environmental and safety standards. EC tour operators have begun expensive audits on Caribbean establishments based on proprietary European standards, which are not always relevant to the region.
The CHA (through CAST), together with the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC)* are implementing the project in order to help the region remain a world class competitor in the travel and tourism market.
Its key elements are:
- Independent audits to evaluate the hygiene and environmental conditions of hotels
- Introduction of self-auditing procedures for resource conservation and health issues
- Training of managers and staff
- Technical consultants
- Publication of specific training materials
- Marketing hotels which achieve standards of excellence
A steering committee is currently developing regional standards for environmental health and resource conservation against which hotels will be evaluated and graded. Training manuals will also be created.
The concept is similar to that of the US Centre for Disease Control's US Vessel Sanitation Programme which has been very effective in reducing the outbreak of gastrointestinal diseases. However, the VSP is mandatory for all ships with a foreign itinerary whereas this is both voluntary and also includes standards for environmental resource conservation. The programme depends upon the collaboration of the Caribbean tourism industry with the public health sector, but, if it is successful, it will go a long way towards ensuring that the Caribbean is the safest, healthiest and most environmentally conscious of holiday destinations.
Chair: Kelly Robinson CAST
Vice Chair: Dr. James Hospedales CAREC
James Samuel, President Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association
Jeremy MacVean, Environmental Chair Bahamas Hotel Association
Bill Aguiton, Board of Directors CHA
Dr. Karen Sealey, CPC PAHO Barbados
Jean Holder Caribbean Tourism Organisation
Earlyn Shuiller, President Barbados Tourism Authority
Dr. Klaus Plentz Medical Advisor, TUI
Dr. Deanna Ashley Ministry of Health, Jamaica
Steve Freudmann, President, Association of British Travel Agents
George Vincent, Organisation of American States