Caribbean urged to give health tourism priority
KINGSTON – Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says the Caribbean needs to take a serious look at health security, which, he noted, is a critical area for the continued growth and development of tourism in the region.
“Health is such a key part of that chain of connection to secure the integrity and reputation of the destination and also earn a large amount of money. Out of it flows things like health tourism, which is now an economic activity that is one of the largest sub-sectors of commercial activity in tourism,” he noted.
Bartlett was addressing the recent launch of the Jamaica Tourism and Health Programme in the western parish of St James.
Health security is defined as the activities required to minimise vulnerability to acute public health events that endanger the collective health of populations.
Bartlett noted that with most countries in the region being heavily dependent on tourism, health security must be given priority. He pointed out that of the 22 countries in the Caribbean, 16 rely on tourism for more than 50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
“We, in the Caribbean, are the most tourism-dependent region on Earth. We have something to protect, and nothing damages international travel than health scares and health pandemics,” he argued, adding that health must be seen as an economic activity, as it impacts the value of tourism.
Bartlett, in the meantime, said the Ministry is willing to partner with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Ministry of Health on research that will provide relevant data on health tourism, and food safety and security.
“We want to do more, and I believe that providing data that you can measure and manage is critical in finding the solutions. We want to invest in research with you… we are willing to work with you. Let’s see how we can put together that research that is going to give us current data that will help to inform the management of our health arrangements in the region better,” he said.
The Jamaica Tourism and Health Programme is a collaborative effort of the Ministries of Tourism and Health.
The initiative forms part of a regional tourism and health project, funded through an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) grant, which promotes the development of a sustainable and profitable tourism product in the Caribbean. (CMC)