by Marlon Madden
Workers in the tourism industry are being encouraged to take better care of their mental, financial, physical and emotional health as they continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impacts.
Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Geoffrey Roach said improvement in these areas will improve the wellbeing of individuals, each business and the overall industry.
Additionally, he is urging local authorities and industry officials to do what they could to ensure that challenges experienced by visitors were minimsed.
“We cannot speak to the health of employees, businesses and industry particularly at this time without giving consideration to the health or our visitors, specifically to their mental health in terms of the challenges that have been faced,” said Roach.
“We know that this crisis hasn’t been easy on any of us whether in Barbados or elsewhere. The truth is that for those people who choose to travel at this time to take a vacation in Barbados, we as a country need to work to deliver an experience that does not impact on them negatively,” he added
Roach was addressing the BHTA third quarterly meeting, which was held virtually under the theme Acquiring the Balance: Healthy Employees, Business and Industry.
He said it was critical for workers in the tourism industry to take special care of their mental health, adding that this could be done by having support groups “that you can lean on sometimes to just de-stress”.
He also encouraged those in the sector to utilise the services of counsellors if they so desired, pointing out that “counselling can be formal or informal and I think quite often the ability to sit with someone who is a counsellor and offload . . . sometimes help you to manage the issues that you are going through”.
He also encouraged them to “take a step back sometimes and take that time to just come down and do something that relaxes you” by engaging in a hobby.
“Of course, we know that stress can cause people to make some very poor decisions, so when we talk about financial health, taking care of your mental health will also help you to make better financial decisions. It is important to do your budgeting and manage your cash,” added Roach.
Acknowledging that the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism industry, resulting in loss of hundreds of jobs locally, Roach said “it might be important for those persons who have been out of work for a while, to be able to turn their pastime into a cash flow”.
Also encouraging the tourism sector workers to take care of their physical health, Roach warned that “if you are burnt out and if you are stressed, then you are no use to yourself, your family or your work environment.
So let’s all make a personal dedication to try and make a better effort where we have not been doing so, to look after our personal health”.
Pointing to the high levels of non-communicable diseases in Barbados, he also called for “an enhanced national wellness programme” to help more people improve their physical health.
In relation to emotional intelligence, Roach said: “it is really just about getting back in touch with yourself and understanding how to manage your emotions”.
“These are all interrelated and it is important for us to recognise that we need to identify ways we can sustain all these aspects of our health and wellbeing,” said Roach.
He also noted that the BHTA was engaging in several activities that should result in an overall improvement in the health of businesses and the industry.
He said a part of the plan was to develop a new roadmap for the association “for the next few years” in an effort to help bring about more improvements across the sector.
Stating that strategic planning sessions have been taking place in this regard, Roach said details of the plan would be shared with members in coming weeks.
He also pointed out that the association would be sharing more of the industry’s stories through a new public relations programme.
“When that programme is rolled out we expect we will be able to share more widely with the public some of the positive aspects and positive impacts of tourism that I believe all of us [in the sector] are so familiar with, but regrettably we have not done enough in the past to share,” he said.
Additionally, the tourism official said there will be a review of the BHTA committees with the view to relinquish those that were “outdated” and update others.
“All of these activities we are engaging in will impact on the health and wellbeing of employees, businesses and the industry in different ways,” said Roach.