Local and regional hotel and tourism industry officials are concerned about the possible impact of the Zika virus on the sector and are taking steps to mitigate the effect.
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued warnings about travelling to countries that have reported the presence of the virus, leaving tourism officials worried that these warnings could hurt the industry.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Sue Springer told Barbados TODAY hoteliers were being proactive in mitigating the impact the virus could have on the tourism industry, which is currently experiencing a favourable performance.
Barbados has so far recorded three cases of the virus.
Springer said based on past experiences with some mosquito-borne viruses hoteliers were aware of the steps to be taken and therefore they were putting preventive and control measures in place at their facilities, including staff training and ensuring their properties were free of stagnant water.
“Unfortunately in this day and age we are facing all sorts of viruses coming to haunt us, whether it is H1N1, SARS [Coronovirus], dengue, Chikungunya and now we have Zika,” said Springer.
“In any of these cases we have always worked in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health. With the Chikungunya the Ministry of Health was very proactive and carried out vector training for a lot of our maintenance personnel in the hotels. Also we had a spreadsheet of how to do your own self-audit for mosquitoes and so on and how to deal with that. We shall be re-enacting that now as we have the mosquito situation,” explained the BHTA executive.
Women who are pregnant and those planning to become pregnant have been specifically warned to postpone travel to affected countries because of the possible link of the virus to microcephaly.
However, Springer said industry officials were acting “to allay the fears” and to control the mosquito population.
“Obviously it is a different situation regarding the people that are pregnant because of the medical research that seem to have come about from that. So yes, there is a concern regarding that but we shall be working as usual, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health to do what we can to sort of allay the fears and to also try to remove mosquitoes as much we can,” she said.
Meanwhile a release from the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) today said public health authorities in the region were working diligently to mitigate the effects of the virus.
The regional tourism organization said it would continue to work closely with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) to continue to monitor developments related to the mosquito-borne virus and to support “appropriate communication, education and prevention initiatives”.
“With more than 700 islands in 30 territories in the Caribbean, conditions will vary from one nation to another.
“The public sector led Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and its private sector counterpart, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), are in close contact with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to monitor and research the Zika cases that have now surfaced in some Caribbean destinations, and to communicate prevention and control measures to residents and visitors,” said the statement.
“The CTO and CHTA are in communication with their respective stakeholders and are observing national, regional and international health protocols in dealing with mosquito-borne [viruses], which can be found in tropical countries,” it concluded.