Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner. (A.Miller/BGIS)

With the devastating impact of natural disasters on countries and their effect on economies well documented, a government official is urging Barbadians "not to be caught napping".??

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner made this observation today while addressing the Ministry of Tourism and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association sponsored Multi Hazard Disaster Management Symposium.?? It was held at Hilton Barbados.

She cited examples of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan, Tropical Storm Tomas, the tsunami in Indonesia and the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti and more recently, off Antigua and Trinidad as reasons why people should take heed to the damage and fall-out caused.

"I urge you to take heed…Are you prepared? Think about if our small island states and by extension, your business was impacted by such devastating events.?? What about your families and employees??? These events, therefore, should not be taken lightly," Senator Sandiford-Garner advised.

The Parliamentary Secretary also alluded to the impact of viruses on the industry and added that the new strain of bird flu H7N9 in China which has infected over 100 people so far and claimed the lives of 35.??She said this development must be closely monitored as it related to travel and tourism.

"We can never forget how the H1N1 virus caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009 which started in China and reached many countries.?? Here in Barbados, we also had to put significant resources in place and we spent much time being in a state of readiness.?? There was a reduction in international tourist arrivals as persons feared being infected during travel. Any such recurrence of this would further hurt our economies as we seek to overcome this current recession," she added.

Senator Sandiford-Garner also spoke about the importance of the Safety and Health at Work Act and the Employment Rights Act. She said the new Acts were very important to Barbados as the island sought to improve its competitiveness as a destination and to provide a safe environment for employees, locals and visitors.

"I cannot over emphasise the importance of safety and health.?? We all know that Barbados, like many Caribbean territories, depends heavily on tourism and one of its grand elements is safety…," Senator Sandiford-Garner underlined.

She urged Barbadians to avoid complacency and take each watch and warning seriously.??"By now you should have refamiliarised yourself with your organisation’s hurricane plans as well as your respective family plans which is also important.?? Ensure that you have adequate non-perishable food supplies and water, because no one is sure when the unexpected will strike and how long we might be affected."??


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