In view of the current Swine Flu (H1N1) pandemic
(as officially categorised by the WHO), the UNWTO held a two-day
review and preparation exercise on ‘Travel and Tourism under
Pandemic Conditions’ in Madrid 26-27 August.
The workshop was convened to anticipate
the challenges the virus will bring over the next few months and
ensure that the travel and tourism industry is fully prepared for
the evolving pandemic.
The event brought together
representatives from 33 public administrations, the private sector
(transport, hospitality and travel services) and relevant
International Organizations to increase preparedness for the
second wave of the pandemic, expected to coincide with the
beginning of the flu season in the Northern Hemisphere this coming
Participants discussed actions undertaken by the sector
in the context of the general industrial response and stressed the
need for a transparent, consistent and timely exchange of
information and communication among the different stakeholders of
In order to
avoid unnecessary disruptions it was recommended that countries
should review and confirm that tourism is appropriately included
in overall pandemic preparedness plans.
A number of
recommendations were made to improve business continuity,
including inclusion of crucial functions in the sector among the
priority groups in vaccination plans. This is especially important
as tourism is important for the economy of most countries and
pivotal for the poorest states.
The event included
presentations by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO)
explaining the status of the spread and impact of the virus. It
was underscored that travel limitations would not limit the spread
of A(H1N1) because it is already “the dominant influenza strain in
most parts of the world”.
“This review was timely and
exceptionally helpful to strengthen our sector’s preparedness and
to ensure that tourism and travel continues to be effectively
embedded in the global pandemic response,” said UNWTO Assistant
Secretary-General Geoffrey Lipman. “We particularly appreciate the
involvement and leadership of the World Health Organization.”
In line with WHO recommendations, the event stressed that
travellers should be vigilant about their own health, stay
informed and follow fundamental hygiene precautionary measures
such as frequent hand washing and proper cough etiquette.
also emphasised that travellers should ensure that their travel
insurance will cover unforeseen flu related costs in the event
they fall sick away from home and should take medical advice
should they experience flu symptoms immediately before, during or
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