First Look

Tourism and Entertainment Ministry promotes disaster preparedness

Ministry of Tourism | 2013-09-20 00:00:00

Guided by a commitment to the safety and wellbeing of thousands of guests and staff, and the protection of tourism related property worth billions of dollars, the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, has embarked on a series of “Hurricane Preparedness and Response Workshops,” with stakeholders.

On the heels of the 25th anniversary of “Hurricane Gilbert,” which claimed some 45 lives and left a trail of gloom in its trail in 1988, the Ministry hosted the second in its series of quarterly workshops at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James recently.

The Ministry currently has an emergency management framework in place that is linked to the national mechanism for the management of emergencies and disasters, which is coordinated by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).

In the event of a disaster the Ministry activates the Tourism Emergency Operations Centre (TEOC) to facilitate a coordinated response to disasters for the sector in collaboration with ODPEM. The TEOC will be headquartered at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston with an auxiliary centre located at the Wexford Court Hotel, in Montego Bay.

One of the main roles of the TEOC is that of liaising with ODPEM and assisting in the coordination of assistance to tourism entities as well as visitors in need of special attention or emergency care. The TEOC also sends regular updates, alerts, and emergency bulletins directly to tourism stakeholders. The centre also collects data on the effect of the disaster on the sector in order to inform the damage assessment and recovery effort and also serves as the central point for the dissemination of accurate information regarding the sector to tourism partners and the media locally and overseas.

In highlighting the importance of the program, Director General in the Ministry, Carrole Guntley, maintains that natural disasters can have a tremendous impact on the travel trade and tourism-dependent economies. In that context, she said the initiative was “of paramount importance to the future of Jamaica and its tourism industry.”

With the emphasis on planning, Ms. Guntley underscored that “disasters present challenges to the tourism industry not only because of their negative impact on visitor numbers but also because of the domino effect they have on nearly every sector and person in the country, including jobs and the supply chain.”

Given the country’s dependence on tourism and with most of the industry’s product heavily concentrated on the coastline, “it is therefore critical that we have a hurricane preparedness and response policy and plan in place to reduce the impact, of these disasters,” she stressed.

Stakeholders welcome the ongoing initiative, endorsing the Director General’s call to continue to build resilience in the tourism sector by strengthening the linkages between emergency management officials and tourism stakeholders. In addition, she said “we must put in place the appropriate mechanisms for early warning, prevention and control of disaster related risks.  It should cover all facets of disaster preparedness, from the relevant training for tourism professionals to proper accommodation for stranded travelers.”

Among the presenters at the workshop were Director, Tourism Facilitation, Osbourne Chin, Regional Disaster Coordinator with ODPEM, Roland Haye and Parish Disaster Coordinator, St. Ann Parish Council, Alvin Clarke.


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