Provienciales, 21 Jan 2015 – When Norovirus hit the Turks and Caicos in mid-2012 it cost the country big time; entire resorts were forced to shut down, cancel guest reservations and it postponed the start of the 2013 new school term for at least two institutions. Extensive and elaborate cleaning exercises were mandatory and the disease caused by fecal matter getting onto food, interrupted an upward trend in tourism arrivals for the TCI. Speakers yesterday at the opening of a joint workshop for more healthy hotel & restaurant environments reflected on the damage done financially and reputationally; among them, Michel Neutelings, President of the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, who said enhanced communication must be a part of this new strategy. “The Norovirus outbreak two years ago, 50% was the fact that the Norovirus actually happened and the other 50% was also not such a good communication effort and sometimes it created more of a panic than was necessary. We all have to place very, very good measures and as you said earlier on Dr. we learnt valuable lessons from what happened in that situation and our economy could be affected if we do not create good communication.”
Medical Services Director for the country, Dr. Nadia Astwood said the goal is to keep tourism revenue healthy by ensuring workers and guests are also keeping healthy through improved practices.
“Hotel based surveillance is just one approach among other aims and strategies of the tourism and health program which includes promoting health in the tourism workforce with the special attention to prevention of non-communicable diseases; to implement food and environmental safety training and certification and improved coastal and recreation water quality through implementation of environmental management systems and guidelines to name but a few expected outcomes.”
That workshop, which has brought in Dr. Lisa Indar from CARPHA continues today and will conclude with an action plan discussion led by Chairman of the Tourist Board, Kingsley Been.