Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (1987)

The 5th International Health and Wellness Tourism Congress set for Oct. 21st to 23rd in Santo Domingo

SINT MAARTEN/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Mr. Alejandro Cambiaso M.D., president of the Dominican Health Tourism Association (ADTS for its acronym in Spanish), and Mrs. Amelia Reyes Mora, president of AF Comunicación Estratégica, have announced the celebration of the 5th International Health and Wellness Tourism Congress. The event will take place from October the 21st to the 23rd 2020, at El Embajador, a Royal Hideaway Hotel, in Santo Domingo. 

Dr. Cambiaso informed that this edition of the Congress will address the new trends and projects that define the direction of the Dominican healthcare and tourism industry. It will focus on reputation and destination crisis management, public-private sectors partnerships, the process of international accreditation, digital healthcare implementation and transformation, the development of healthy cities and top-tier centers; as well as local, international and traveler's insurance policies and the role of hotels in the wellness industry, among timely topics. 

Moreover, Ms. Reyes Mora indicated that this biennial summit promotes the innovation, integration and the development of businesses in the sector.  Also, this Congress places health tourism as an industry of national and regional interest.  In 2018, approximately 47,725 international patients and 69,550 tourists were treated or assisted, respectively, by an area of medical tourism. This contributed to an economic impact of more than 13 billion Dominican Pesos. 

The Congress will feature relevant conferences and panels, which will be aimed at the leaders that are involved in the broad chain of value of health tourism: healthcare centers, insurance companies, travel agencies, airlines, tour operators, hospitality, financial industry, government authorities, logistics, legal, pharmaceutical industry and education, among other sectors. 

Once the organizers concluded with the details of the announcement, they highlighted that the Congress promotes quality, safety and compliance of local regulations and international accreditations. This will further strengthen the country's medical practice and health indicators and position the Dominican Republic as a reliable and safe healthcare destination. Additionally, it will encourage new local and foreign investments, as well as help diversify the national tourism offering. Statistically, 80% of healthcare tourists will travel with partners and spend roughly eight times more than a conventional tourist, therefore leading to a significant economic impact to the local economy. 

In the past two editions, the event gathered more than 800 participants, 74 exhibitors and 112 sponsors, who have become champions of the promotion of innovation, competitiveness and quality standards of healthcare services in the Dominican Republic.

For information and registration visit or call +1 809-567-2663 or +1 809-544-0524


Dutch farm exports reach record levels, boosted by re-exports, higher prices

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch farm-related exports continue to rise, but most of the 2019 increase is due to higher prices rather than volumes and re-exports account for a large chunk, according to new figures from the national statistics agency CBS and Wageningen University.

In total, exports reached €95.4bn last year, up 4.6% on 2018 and their highest ever level. However, just over a quarter of the total figure is due to the re-export of food and agricultural goods grown or produced outside the Netherlands, such as cocoa beans, avocados and beer.

Price rises accounted for two thirds of the total increase in export value. Nevertheless, the Netherlands remains the second biggest exporter of agricultural goods in money terms in the world, behind the US, the CBS said.

The export basket is led by the flower, bulb and plant industry, with exports reaching €9.5bn. Meat exports rose significantly to €8.8bn, driven by the swine fever epidemic in Asia.

Pork exports to China in particular were up 22% on 2018. Dairy product exports reached €8.6bn, vegetables €7.3bn and fruit €6.2bn. Some 25% of Dutch food and drink exports went to Germany.

France accounted for 11% and the UK 9%. Farm machinery and machinery for the food processing industry accounted for a further €10bn in exports, the CBS said.



Water purification plants may spread Legionnaires’ disease

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 80 out of 776 Dutch water purification plants risk spreading Legionnaires disease and must take preventative measures, health and safety watchdog RIVM has warned.

The advice is based on two earlier reports on the possibility that the plants, which purify wastewater from industry and sewers, are the source of the legionella bacteria.

In 2018, some 600 people in the Netherlands caught the disease which manifests itself as pneumonia and can be deadly for the elderly and people in poor health.

The source of the contamination in most registered cases in the Netherlands is unclear, although likely culprits are jacuzzis and industrial cooling towers.

A significant number of infections are picked up abroad, the RIVM said. However, the watchdog found that in a number of cases dating from 2017 and 2018 the source of the disease were two water purification plants in the Netherlands.

In total, 80 plants are currently at risk of spreading the disease, particularly if the water in the basins is warm and air is blown into it. The droplets which then spread through the air can be breathed in by people, potentially making them ill.

The organisation recommends capping the water tanks or filtering the air around them by means of UV light to reduce the risk.



The government must invest in providing good, secure work for all, says advice group

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government needs to invest in ensuring everyone claiming social security has a worthwhile basic job rather than benefits, the Scientific Council for Government Policy said on Wednesday in a new report on employment in the Netherlands.

More than one million people in the Netherlands are currently without work and by providing with them with something valuable to do, they are still able to contribute to society, according to the WRR, a key government advisory body.

‘Good work is essential for prosperity, for the economy and for social cohesion,’ the WRR said. The 300-page report also calls on the government to reduce the number of different employment contracts and bring in a basic insurance system for everyone, including the self-employed.

Technology, the use of more short-term and flexible hour contracts, and an increase in pressure mean more people are losing grip on their jobs, the report said. Around 36% of people have a lack of job security and around half of people in work say they have no autonomy in what they do.

This means efforts need to be made to make sure people are happy with what they do, the researchers say. Around half of absenteeism is work related and this is a situation which should not be allowed to continue.

The report will be formally presented to social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees on Wednesday evening.



Back to nature: burials in the wild are more popular in 2019

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of people opting for a burial in natural surroundings hit 1,500 last year compared to just 250 in 2013, the national organisation for cemetery management LOB has said.

This type of burial, in an unmarked plot that will revert to the natural landscape, still constitutes only a small percentage of all burials, LOB consultant Wim van Midwoud told the NRC.

Some 100,000 people are cremated each year, while 50,000 are buried in the conventional way, he said. The increasing popularity of a burial in natural surroundings is partly to do with cost, Midwoud said.

In the Netherlands, people lease a space in a graveyard and have to decide what to do with the remains once the lease expires, but this does not apply to a burial in nature.

The cost of a traditional grave ranges widely but can top €7,000 for a 30-year lease on a plot. The total one-off cost for a nature burial is no more than €3,000 to €5,000. Van Midwoud also thinks people prefer the natural surroundings to the formality of a traditional cemetery and want ‘a maintenance-free’ grave.

Graves in a natural plot are, by definition, not tended or maintained. Since 2011 some 14 cemeteries situated in the wooded or park-like landscape are offering the service, the paper said.



Amsterdam launches scheme to help youngsters clear their debts

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam city council is launching a pilot scheme to help a group of young people to clear their debts in exchange for a commitment to work or study, the Parool reported on Tuesday.

Some 20,000 people between the ages of 18 and 27 have ‘problematic’ debts, meaning they are unable to pay them off within three years, the paper said. Alderman Marjolein Moorman said the debts are holding youngsters back and making it even harder for them to find a place to live.

Youngsters with debts also tend to give up their studies prematurely, Moorman said in a letter to councillors. The scheme is similar to one already in place in The Hague and Utrecht.

It involves transferring the debts of selected young people to the council credit bank and a €750 contribution towards paying off the debt. In return for the council’s help, the youngsters will have to commit to a plan involving finishing their education or finding a job.

If the council can persuade creditors to agree to the debt transfer, some 150 youngsters will be able to make a fresh start his year, costing some €350,000, the paper said.

Debt expert Nadja Jungmann said the plan is a good one and could avoid future costs. ‘Research shows that people in debt often need much more care and are dependent on benefits for longer,’ she said.

The crucial thing is however is to give youngsters a say in the goals they have to achieve in exchange. ‘It has to be something meaningful to them or it won’t work.’



Noah and Emma were most popular Dutch baby names in 2019

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Noah and Emma were the most popular choices of name for parents in 2019, according to the annual figures complied by the social insurance bank SVB.

The SVB, which is in charge of distributing child benefits, said 785 boys were registered with Noah as a first name, as well as 731 girls called Emma, between January and November.

Lucas, which topped the list of boys’ names in 2018, slipped to third place behind Daan, but ahead of Levi, Sem and Finn. The most popular girls’ name of 2018, Julia, was fifth last year behind Mila, Sophie and Zoë.

More than 169,000 babies were born in the first 11 months of the year: 86,653 boys and 82,563 girls, the SVB said.

The lists were dominated by short names of six letters or fewer: only Benjamin (19th) and Olivier (35th) for boys, and Isabella (49th) for girls, defied the trend in the respective top 50s.

Top 10 boys Noah, Daan, Lucas, Levi, Sem, Finn, Liam, James, Milan, Luuk.

Top 10 girls Emma, Mila, Sophie, Zoë, Julia, Tess, Sara, Anna, Evi, Saar.



Millennials are big spenders on eating away from home: research

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Millennials are spending three times the amount their parents spend on eating and drinking away from home, according to research by food institute FSIN.

The report shows that people born between 1981 and 2000 are spending an average of €1,512 on eating and drinking in cafes and restaurants every year, compared with €519 for baby boomers.

‘Food is a driver in the lifestyle of millennials and generation X,’ FSIN director Jan-Willem Grievink told news website ‘They use what they eat and drink to show what they stand for.’

However, despite the trend towards vegetarianism and oat or soya milk in coffee ‘millennials still eat a lot of fast food’, Grievink said.



‘Explosive’ growth in Amsterdam hotels despite stricter limits

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 7,700 new hotel rooms have been built in Amsterdam since 2015 despite a ban on central new hotels, according to the Volkskrant.

Citing figures from the CBS Dutch statistics office and Amsterdam’s IOS information service, the paper reports that hotel rooms grew ‘explosively’ to a total of 36,860 last year.

In 2017, concerned at the huge numbers of tourists visiting Amsterdam, the city banned new hotels in the central areas. But it appears that planning permission granted before this year means that new developments continue to spring up, reports the Volkskrant.

In addition, almost 4,800 new hotel rooms have been built in nearby towns in the same period, a growth of 40%. On Friday, the largest hotel in the city, NH Hotel Group’s show hotel, opened at Amsterdam RAI with 650 rooms on 25 floors.

On the other side of Amsterdam’s ring road, the Van der Valk Amsterdam RAI hotel is set to open with 238 rooms in the summer, while Europe’s largest Holiday Inn Express hotel is set to offer 439 rooms in Amsterdam Noord.


Under the latest city government, only two new hotels have been given planning permission and there is now an extensive set of measures being implemented to restrain tourism and restore ‘balance’.

However, a report by Ecorys, commissioned by Airbnb, has claimed that the ‘main driver of growth’ is new hotels, which it estimates will host almost two million extra overnight guests.

The Volkskrant adds that hotels just outside the city, in Aalsmeer, Hoofddorp, Halfweg and near Schiphol airport are set to add an estimated 14,000 hotel rooms.


Dennis Boutkan, tourism spokesman for Amsterdam’s PvdA Labour party, believes that the city’s ‘overnights’ policy needs to be far stricter, and regrets that hotels granted planning permission under looser rules will still go ahead.

‘It is annoying, but when the rules got stricter in 2017, 110 initiatives were already on a list that would still go ahead, and there are now 50 that come under this more liberal policy,’ he said.

‘I am not a supporter of our overnight policy, but we are working on agreeing limits with the 30 nearby councils in the Amsterdam Metropolitan area. Some of them say that if Amsterdam doesn’t want the tourists, they do, and although we can’t ban this, we can make stronger agreements.’

He added that in 2018, 34 hotel planning proposals were submitted to the council and only two were given approval, while the council recently toughened up rules to limit bed and breakfast licenses and ban Airbnb-type holiday rentals in areas that have demonstrable tourist nuisance.

Nonetheless, tourism is an important economic driver. The government estimates that by 2030, 29 million tourists a year will visit the Netherlands and the business generated €87.5bn for the Dutch economy last year, according to the CBS.



Lack of career prospects leaves care workers to quit, says report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Government efforts to combat the staffing crisis in the care sector are inadequate because of a lack of career perspectives and insufficient work challenges, an independent commission has found.

The care sector remains a ‘colander’ leaking staff, the commission warned. Almost half the people signing up for a job in care leave within two years. A lack of prospects and unchallenging work are the most cited causes, with low salaries only coming in at seventh place.

Last year 110,000 people left their care jobs, only 1,000 fewer than the year before, despite the government’s campaign. Commission chairman Doekle Terpstra, who sent a critical report to health minister Hugo de Jonge before Christmas, told Trouw that employers who think giving people a company bike will convince them to stay in care jobs are sorely mistaken.

The initially successful recruitment drive – 41,000 more people signed up for training compared to two years ago – means there is no space to train more people. The emphasis must lie on motivating those who already work in care not to leave, Terpstra said.

Terpstra, who spoke to employers, insurers and training institutions, told the paper that while people want to work in care, employers have for years invested far too little in keeping them.

‘I sometimes think employers still regard people who work in care as people with a vocation but the new generation consist of young professionals who are motivated and want a career, and so do staff already there,’ he told the paper.

The way the care system is financed is another obstacle, he said, because institutions are paid according to individual performance. This makes finding solutions for staffing problems more difficult.

‘Cooperation, not competition, and a consistent and region-based way of financing instead of each individual institution will contribute to solving the staffing problem,’ he said.


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