World Travel, Tourism Officials Conclude Two-Day Testing Of Responses To Influenza Pandemic Scenarios
Travel and tourism officials from 30 countries were addressed by the Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, David Nabarro, in Paris at their two-day practice of responses to a potential pandemic outbreak, concluding today.
Good planning, clear arrangements for direction and staff communications, a fully prepared work force and clear procedures for customer and workplace safety are the keys to protecting the interests of travellers, companies and the entire sector, Dr. Nabarro said in his message to the group.
At any given time, there are over 2 million travellers abroad and many million more travelling within home countries, according to Geoffrey Lipman, Assistant Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization. He underscored that there is no present threat to tourism from avian flu. The purpose of the two-day exercise in Paris, organized by the World Tourism Organization, was to hone coordination within countries, as well as across borders, in the event of a regional or global crisis, such as a rapidly spreading outbreak of a new influenza type among humans. “The tourism sector is committed to being fully prepared in the event of a pandemic,” Mr. Lipman said. A special portal has been launched at www.sos.travel to help travellers and the industry in case of such an emergency.
In his remarks, Dr. Nabarro said that the travel and tourism sector is highly susceptible to market tremors. The 2004 outbreak of SARS in East Asia, with a fatality toll limited to several hundred, nevertheless, resulted in $50 billion in economic damage overall and sent tourism in the region into a temporary tailspin.
The industry concerned with moving people away from their home bases, especially via airlines and airports, comprises only one sector that is taking seriously the possibility that the current avian influenza, widespread on three continents, might transmute into a strain that is deadly and rapidly transmissible among humans, according to Dr. Nabarro.
Among the first to take notice were those most directly affected: companies involved in livestock and poultry, pharmaceuticals and health care.
Following their lead were big banks and finance firms, particularly those dealing with stocks and other kinds of trading, and insurance and reinsurance; utilities like electricity, water and food distribution; companies concerned with the supply of essential goods and their transport; building maintenance firms; companies involved in security, sanitation and hygiene; or in management of wildlife, parks and the environment.
These businesses are taking steps to be able to maintain operations essential to corporate survival and to public welfare over a period of weeks or months, Dr. Nabarro said.
The World Tourism Organization is the leading international organization in the field of tourism. A specialized agency of the United Nations, it plays a central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the interests of developing countries.
For more information, contact Tim Wall of the United Nations Department of Public Information, 1 212 963 5851, firstname.lastname@example.org; or the World Tourism Organization, www.unwto.org, Press and Communications, email@example.com, 34 91 567 8193/8194.
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