The Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) have signed a three-year cooperation agreement this week to incorporate COVID-19 extra care, public health and safety measures including infection, prevention and control (IPC) into MCT’s minimum standard requirement for tourism services mainly in accommodation, tours, transport and attractions.
The agreement is to ensure that in the immediate to long term, the industry rebuilds trust and confidence of potential visitors through effective communication of the health and safety protocols being implemented to assure them of their wellbeing when in country and while using the existing services. It also aims to build capacity of tourism operators and staff around the new health and hygiene protocols for delivery of safe experience of staff and guests through enhanced cleanliness and best hygiene practices when travel restrictions are lifted.
During the signing of the agreement MCT’s Permanent Secretary Andrew Nihopara explained that the Ministry has developed and embarked on a nation-wide implementation of the minimum standard program however with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that these standards be adapted to COVID-19 health and safety measures.
“The signing marks a new beginning in the tourism industry in adjusting itself to the so called new normal. For us, this means adapting business as usual to much safer and healthier standards in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This is an effective way forward if the industry is to prosper into the future”.
Mr. Nihopara also acknowledged the partnership with the Ministry of health stating that it will go a long in helping the tourism industry to thrive despite the challenges with COVID-19. “As such the ministry is very much looking forward to the implementation of the agreement in the next three years”.
MHMS Permanent Secretary Mrs. Pauline McNeil said that the Ministry is also pleased to have signed the agreement. “We are pleased to be supporting the country’s tourism industry in this regard as it is well within our core mandate to protect and preserve the health of our people and in this case, the thousands of employees within the tourism sector including our visitors, explained Mrs. McNeil.
She also highlighted that the signing of the agreement demonstrates the new normal that we must also embark on. “COVID-19 threat will still be around for some time and most likely into the many years ahead, therefore such agreements and partnership should also be the new normal of today and the ministry of health stands ready to continue providing such support to other government ministries as well as to other socio-economic sectors of the country”.
With the cooperation, both parties agreed to ensure that the tourism’s COVID-19 extra care measures and its national rollout including training of operators and service providers be supported with technical inputs and guidance from the MHMS. Furthermore, MCT to assess compliance of tourism operations to the new measures and issue certification as being safe based on advice provided by MHMS that is in line with WHO’s overall guidance and recommendation as well as the national government’s public health regulation.