When tourists arrive on our shores, it's all about maximizing the opportunity to generate revenue, and of course making sure they have a great time so they keep coming back for every vacation . Well the Ministry of Health and the tourism industry say, it should also be about the health and safety of the tourists during their stay, which in turn will impact the health of Belizeans. And the Tourism and Health Program will focus on this aspect of tourist arrivals. It was launched today at the Radisson and we found out more about how this surveillance program will work.
Dr. Lisa Indar, Head - Tourism and Health Program - CARPHA
"Health and safety does impact on tourism. Tourism and vice versa impact on health, safety and security. Our visitors, we want our visitors to come in, but they can bring diseases with them. First cases ZIKA, Chikungunya, H1N1 all came in through a visitor. So we want to ensure that if that happens that we have systems in place to identify very quickly so that we can have appropriate response. So you avoid spread, you avoid negative publicity, you avoid it going into your population and overall you are reducing the impact on your country."
Abil Castenada, Chief Tourism Ofc., - Ministry of Tourism
"Sometimes we have had some of our guests at our properties, in the hotels or on the cruise ships and they feel ill. However the type of information is not taken in formally, so that there is no way for us to track where it is and what symptoms they were feeling and being able to correlate with possible diagnostic etc. and then be able to then pass that over to the public health, because if we talk about diseases such as Ebola, diseases like measles and other diseases that are highly communicable, then it's an issue from a public health perspective that we need to have as much information so that we could know how to be able to stem the problem."
"It's a system that's being work along with the private sector and of course it's going to be something as was mentioned today started as voluntary for the private sector, for the hotel sectors and our tourism industry partners to assist in supporting this system, so they will be responsible in actually collecting the data and all of that. But the program itself is developing a website platform in which they would be able to collect that data, input that data into the website platform and then that particular information would be available to the public health ministry for instance or the departments so that they be able to monitor and see well maybe this person is presenting a certain type of symptoms, then we maybe move on that. That maybe could be patient zero if we have some sort of epidemic or crisis. So that's kind of the public/private partnership that's being worked on right now."
Training has already begun for those in the hotel industry, and at the airport and border to detect and document tourists' health condition. Castaneda told us that so far for September, tourist arrivals have increased by 37 percent but this program is important to have in place just in the event of any serious outbreak.