Having already invested some $750 million in the health sector, through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), the Jamaica Ministry of Tourism is again partnering with the Ministry of Health on a program to safeguard the health of visitors and locals, while ensuring sustainability of the hospitality industry.
The Tourism Health Information, Monitoring and Response Systems (THRMS) Program was officially launched on July 6 at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Montego Bay. The program is being coordinated by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Giving the keynote address, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, disclosed that the TEF financial contribution to the health sector had gone towards the purchase of equipment, vector control programs, improving services and upgrading local health facilities.
In keeping with the commitment of the tourism ministry to play an active and vigilant role in the protection and preservation of the country’s health environment, an island-wide response to the threat of ZikV received $250 million while $21 million was allocated to purchase fogging machines for vector control in Westmoreland, Hanover, St James and Trelawny.
In addition, more than $226 million was contributed to construct a trauma center in western Jamaica and $6.7 million to purchase an ambulance for the Negril resort area.
Supported by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA), the program recognizes that given the region’s dependence on tourism, the health of Jamaica’s and other Caribbean economies is closely related to the health and sustainability of the industry.
Endorsing the program, Minister Bartlett pointed to the key importance of health security, not just to tourism but to the economy of the Caribbean as a whole. “Tourism is more than arrivals or earnings; it is a series of interconnected values in the very long and sometimes endless chain, and health is such a key part of that chain of connection from which we secure the integrity and reputation of our destination,” Minister Bartlett said.
He said health was being seen for its impact both as a product and an economic activity as well as an integral part of the health and wellness of the nation. The CARPHA Health and Tourism Program therefore enhanced Jamaica’s advantage as the leading tourist resort in the Caribbean. He said he was therefore “very pleased that we in Jamaica have taken the proactive position” of implementing the program.
Minister Bartlett also emphasized that health was central to the tourism ministry’s destination assurance initiative as “nobody visits an unhealthy community.”
He informed the head of CARPHA, Dr. Lisa Indar, of an interest in further collaboration with the Agency. “I believe that providing data that you can manage is critical in finding the solutions and so we want to invest in research with you that will give us current data that will help to inform us to manage our health arrangement better in the sector,” he said.
Minister Bartlett also endorsed a suggestion by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Winston De La Haye to explore the inclusion of a presentation on tourism and health issues on the agenda for the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism’, scheduled to be held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, from November 27 to 29 this year.