Asian flu test gets strong backing

The second UNWTO regional Avian and Human
Influenza Simulation has been successfully supported by the government of
Indonesia and the Association of Southeast Asian NationsIt
attracted 70 participants from more than 15 countries and several UN
Agencies. The group modelled the impact of an evolving pandemic in the
Asia Pacific region, replicating the roles of government departments,
the tourism industry, international bodies and other stakeholders,
including tourists themselves. It followed a similar exercise held in
Paris in March, which focused on Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

In opening the event, the Secretary-General of the Indonesian Ministry
of Culture and Tourism, Sapta Nirwandar, and the Executive Chairman of
the Indonesian National Coordination Committee on Avian Flu, Bayu
Khrisnamurti, stressed the value of international cooperation and its
help in increasing the integration of Tourism issues in national
coordination programmes.

With an estimated 10 million people travelling abroad at any given time
and many more within their own countries, UNWTO keeps a close watch on
health risks generally and AHI specifically. While there has been no
change in the level of AHI alerts issued by the World Health
Organization, the Tourism sector is already taking action to be fully
aware of the potential dangers and to prepare effectively.

The simulation helped to identify possible gaps in response systems and
to understand the pressures and dynamics in a real-world situation. It
underscored the need for:

. good planning,

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. clear communications,

. a fully prepared and trained work force, and

. unambiguous procedures for customer and workplace safety.

UNWTO Assistant Secretary-General Geoffrey Lipman said “The Avian Flu
threat does not diminish and like other sectors of the economy Tourism
needs to strengthen its defences. Every time we hold an
awareness-building exercise of this nature we increase preparedness and
strengthen our coordination mechanisms. It is particularly important for
integrating the widespreaduse of our response portal www.sos.travel as a
robust component of the global response system”.

After conducting its next simulation exercise in Mexico from 19-20
September 2007 for the Americas, UNWTO will have trained together with
governments and international agencies around the world. This will
provide a solid base for intensified national simulations in 2008.
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