The health of Caribbean economies is closely related to the health of its travel and tourism industry given that the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has demonstrated the critical necessity for health in tourism as it was propelled by travel, devastating tourism, resulting in economic instability and threatening regional health security in the Caribbean. This need for health in tourism remains paramount with the ongoing threat of new and re-emerging diseases and public health concerns, such as Monkeypox, that transcend international, regional and national boundaries.
The Regional Tourism and Health Program (THP) is an innovative novel program, addressing the health, safety and environmental sanitation (HSE) threats to tourism with the aim of strengthening countries’ capacity to prepare for and respond to public health threats, enhancing health and safety of visitors and locals and thereby, improving the quality, competitiveness and resilience of Caribbean tourism (http://carpha.org/THP).
It is being executed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean’s sole public health agency responsible for preventing disease, promoting and protecting health, in collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA). THP adopts a multi-faceted, multisectoral approach for implementation, which includes surveillance and response, guidelines, capacity building, standards, policy, advocacy and partnerships, and a travellers health award and app.
With the advent of COVID-19, THP quickly expanded and realigned its tools for more rapid and relevant response to the pandemic. Implementing countries have enhanced capacity to mitigate against COVID-19 and other HSE threats to sustainable Caribbean tourism. The THP is elevating Caribbean tourism by building travellers’ confidence and reinstating healthier, safer travel to the Caribbean. This integrated, multisectoral program is the first global effort of its kind, setting an international precedent for improving sustainable tourism in the Caribbean. There is no better time than now, as new threats to health and travelling the region emerge and in this era of real time, instant information flow, for implementing mechanisms for monitoring and responding to tourism health and safety threats, remains crucial.