Media Center

Press Release


  November 6, 2005

Experts representing a cross-section of stakeholders of the tourism industry in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries concluded a two-day meeting in Washington Friday, agreeing to develop a plan for better coordination and information-sharing on natural and man-made disasters that can affect the region’s vital tourism.

The proposed plan for action by the tourism stakeholders will be based on the priority activities identified during the meeting for an effective, coherent and coordinated preparation and response strategy. The tourism action plan will build on and complement Caribbean and inter-American efforts to prepare and respond to natural and man-made disasters and will involve coordination of efforts by tourism’s public and private sectors stakeholders.

The "Roundtable Forum on Response to Man-made or Natural Disaster on Tourism Infrastructure for CARICOM Countries" was held at the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters. It brought together Caribbean tourism industry representatives, government authorities and international experts to exchange ideas on strategies and best practices for disaster mitigation, counter terrorism and security measures for the CARICOM region's major revenue earner—tourism.

Orlando Mason, chief of the OAS Tourism and Small Enterprise Division, was upbeat about the forum's outcome: "We are facilitating the exchange of experience, mutual support and joint action among a cross-section of people that have the know-how and the decision-making capability to improve preparation and recovery with respect to a major disaster in the Caribbean. All participants have committed to continue working together in order to better protect tourists and all other sectors of the population that may be affected or be part of the response to a major disaster in the Caribbean."

He underscored the fruitful exchange that resulted, because the countries and organizations were all represented "at the strategy-making level that was necessary to plan and coordinate effective preparation and response.” He noted the particular usefulness of the discussion groups—around tourism, natural disasters and national security issues—that articulated common priorities for needed action. This convergence, Mason argued, provides a really solid basis on which to craft a plan, which will involve feedback and efforts from the public and private sectors as well as community, national, regional and hemispheric organizations. A meeting is expected to be held next April to move the proposed plan forward. "And from that we are going to start concrete actions in training, in coordination and in information dissemination," Mason said.

For the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) Secretary General, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, this was a timely conference. He said disaster preparedness calls for "a core set of activities to make sure we're going to mitigate the effects of it in the smallest [countries] among us, and thereafter begin to build on it beyond that."

The CTO Secretary General emphasized the region’s need for a single response system instead of the "tower of Babel" situation with different systems. "It makes a great deal of sense for us to begin to look at a single system so that we can move people in very quickly if they are able to provide some assistance in the case that one of us is hit by some kind of disaster." He also called for better efforts to raise public awareness and also to enlist the media as a key stakeholder.

Country representatives shared updates on the status of disaster readiness and response; tourism infrastructure preparedness; counter-terrorism response; and risk analysis, among other elements. Working sessions featured presentations by the OAS' Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), as well as updates on OAS disaster mitigation work in the Caribbean.

At Thursday's opening session, Acting Director of the OAS Department for Integral Development, Carmen Marina Gutiérrez, welcomed the participants. This was followed by remarks from Patrick Duddy, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of States for the West Hemisphere; the CTO’s Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace; and Jimmy Chin, of Criterion Strategies. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) and the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), were among other organizations represented.

Reference: E-260/05