Tourism officials are keeping a close eye on developments surrounding the Chikungunya and Ebola viruses in Barbados and the region.
So far Barbados has recorded over 40 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya, while the deadly Ebola virus, which is spread by human to human contact and has its origin in the fruit bat out of Africa, has not been detected here.
However, prominent hotelier Colin Jordan is suggesting that a two-pronged approach is needed in response to Ebola.
He told Barbados TODAY that given the destinations to which the deadly disease has spread, including traditional source markets for the island’s tourism, Barbados could not afford to take the issue lightly.
“That said, any disease or epidemic like that would be of concern [to] us,” said Jordan, who is a past president of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA).
He said industry officials were working closely with the Ministry of Health on the issue.
“The fact that Ebola is present now in destinations that could be considered markets for us, then we have the concern. But we are of the view that the Ministry of Health is working diligently to ensure that the precautions that could be put in place are put in place,” he said.
Jordan also suggested that there should be a regional approach to tackling the problem.
“Each country is sovereign and while we deal with it from a regional perspective, the population of each country expects its authorities to deal with its situation. So I think the approach has to be a two-pronged one. But it would be in my mind a faster response if we, while working on the regional front, are attacking it also as a country . . . I think both can work, and both should be working,” Jordan stressed.
Jordan’s and Roach’s comments came a day after the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) expressed concern that if the Government did not treat the outbreak of Chikungunya in Barbados with more urgency, and put better preventative measures in place to protect against Ebola, they could have a widespread negative impact on tourism and other sectors.
Also commenting on the situation today, the interim president of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. Petra Roach said: “We can’t afford to start a scare but at the same time we can’t afford either to not put the sensible measures in place.”
“With tourism we have to be careful about everything. Health issues are not anything that are specific to Barbados. It is going to be around the Caribbean and I think in a day and age where we travel so often you have to be cognizant of these things, but at the same time you have to approach them sensibly. So I think the Ministry of Health have thought through the actuality of what is happening and they are approaching it in a very pragmatic way,” she added.
The tourism official said the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) was playing a very important role by educating its members on the diseases and informing them
of best practices that could be tailor-made for each domicile.