By Josefina Josepha
Caribbean News Now Curacao Correspondent
WILLEMSTAD, Curacao -- On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to submit some questions on the zika virus and related travel concerns to Sandra Carvao, chief communications and publications officer of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
What is the UNWTO position on the connection/association/relationship between zika virus and microcephaly?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is the competent organization to refer to on this issue. WHO has announced that the recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological disorders reported in the Americas constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. The announcement followed an expert committee meeting called under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not scientifically proven. More information from WHO is available at http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/situation-report/en/
What of travel advisory measures would the UNWTO advise the travelling public relative to the zika outbreak?
UNWTO recalls that, according to WHO, the committee found no justification for restrictions on travel or trade. Please see UNWTO statement on this issue at http://media.unwto.org/press-release/2016-02-01/updated-unwto-statement-zika-virus
There have been some estimations that zika outbreak could be more costly to manage and control than Ebola, according to sources in the UK. If this estimation is correct, this would negatively affect the Caribbean and Americas in terms of tourism even in the face of low aviation fuel costs, which encourage travelling. What is the UNWTO’s strategic plan for combating or assisting to combat the zika virus in relation to the many different forms of tourism, especially throughout the Caribbean, Latin America or OECD countries?
As to the impact on the tourism sector, it is too early to make any effective assessment considering the evolving nature of the situation. UNWTO is in close contact with regional and local authorities and support them in communicating effectively on the issue, namely, stressing the WHO indications that there is should be no travel restrictions.
As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability in addition to offering leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.
UNWTO encourages the implementation of the global code of ethics for tourism, to maximize tourism’s socio-economic contribution while minimizing its possible negative impacts, and is committed to promoting tourism as an instrument in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), that are geared towards reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development worldwide.
UNWTO generates market knowledge, promotes competitive and sustainable tourism policies and instruments, fosters tourism education and training, and works to make tourism an effective tool for development through technical assistance projects in over 100 countries around the world.
According to the UNWTO's website its membership includes 157 countries, 6 associate members and over 480 affiliate members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.