The second UNWTO regional Avian and Human Influenza Simulation (AHI) was actively supported by the government of Indonesia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It 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:
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 widespread use 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. For more information visit www.unwto.org