Barbados and other Caribbean islands are being urged to share best practices when it comes to disaster preparedness.
In addition, said Commissioner of Tourism of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) Beverly Nicholson-Doty, officials in the tourism industry throughout the region should pay close attention to the effects that natural disasters could have on their workers.
Acknowledging that the Caribbean was prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters, Nicholson-Doty said the region should “share those things that worked and those things that didn’t work so that we can improve our overall crisis and disaster planning, and as a part of that, our communication planning”.
“I think it is a responsibility of us all to share best practices. It may not be a hurricane. It could be an earthquake. It could be a tsunami or any [other] kind of natural disaster. I think as a region, it is critical for us to share best practices,” she said.
The hurricane season will officially end on November 30.
Nicholson-Doty said travellers were sometimes not aware of the exact location of some Caribbean territories, thinking that when one island was affected by a natural disaster, all were physically affected.
She said it was therefore critical for the region to work together to change that perception.
“Oftentimes, people don’t understand the distance between the countries so they lump us all together. Geographically, it is important for us to be able to ensure that there is an understanding of our region,” she said.
Nicholson-Doty said the USVI just updated its crisis communication plan and shared it with partners in the Eastern Caribbean.
“Not because we think our plan is better than anyone else’s. It is a prototype and certainly my partners can point out things to me that I might not have noted in my plan and vice versa because together our collective planning is important for us all,” she said.
Stressing the importance of having a good communication plan in place, the tourism commissioner said it was also critical that tourism industry officials constantly train people in the area of disaster management.
“You are not only dealing with the physical aspect of it but you have to look at it from the standpoint of the emotional and the stress management of it… it is also important in terms of our ability to plan,” she said, pointing out that workers in the tourism industry in the USVI experienced some level of stress following last year’s hurricanes.
“We are happy to share our plan. We are really encouraging people to sit down and look at your plan and test it. We do it more than once a year. You must be able to operate under some of the most intense pressure, not just in terms of the disaster itself, but also the human element. It is so important to have all those processes in place so you can better serve your community – both your visiting community and the community of people within your territory,” encouraged Nicholson-Doty.
Last year, the USVI was badly affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, resulting in billions of dollars in damage. Following the mega storms in September 2017, there were over 1,900 claims. To date, some US$1.8 billion have been paid out in insurance settlements.
With a lot of help from the federal government, the US territory is investing about US$8 billion in rebuilding the destination which consists of St Croix, St Thomas and St John. (MM)