Several months ago, hundreds of Cubans were travelling to Guyana each week to conduct business, but over the past two months there has been a significant decline in these numbers, says businessman and former Chairman of the Private
Sector Commission (PSC), Captain Gerry Gouveia.
Gouveia told Guyana Times on Monday that this decline could be more than 50 per cent which, according to him, could play a major role in business activities in Guyana. The businessman acknowledged that Cubans have been helping to keep businesses afloat in the city of Georgetown.
When asked what may have caused this decline, Gouveia said that it may have stemmed from the incident where hundreds of the Cuban nationals were stranded in Guyana for several days during April, as the Honduras-based EasySky airline was only granted temporary permission to fly here.
The flight was due to leave the Cheddi Jagan International Airport at 10:30h on Tuesday, April 25, with 75 passengers and cargo before returning 10 hours later to fly out more persons. In all, 433 passengers had been stranded in Guyana for close to one week.
EasySky was not allowed to resume flights to Guyana until a complete review of its application and approval process was completed then. The airline is represented locally by Gouveia’s company, Roraima Group of Companies. The airline began flying to Guyana late last year.
“I think when the Cubans were stranded in Guyana the last time, the way that entire event unfolded probably had a lot to do with the way the situation is now,” he stated.
Nevertheless, the businessman said he was currently working on a plan to re-energise the situation. “So, in a month or so, we would see a re-emergence of the status,” he posited.
However, Gouveia conceded that Cubans might have diverted their business to Panama. While he could not say what might be some of the other reasons with the exception that Spanish was the official language there, he said Guyana would need to work on attracting them back here.
“Investors have lost some steam and I am working for them to get back that steam. I think the market is there, but I just think that there are some events that affected them badly. We should see some results in the next two to three weeks’ time hopefully,” he added.
Guyana Times spoke with several owners of major retail and wholesale outlets along Regent Street on Monday to get an understanding as to whether in fact there are fewer Cubans shopping in Guyana. While some claimed that there has not been a decline in Cubans shopping here, a majority of the business people said they have noticed the decline over the past month or two.
A prominent businessman on Regent Street, who sells apparel, told this newspaper that there were still many Cubans who shop at his store. The businessman, who requested anonymity, admitted that Cubans have been helping to boost profits for his company and they have indeed been keeping other businesses afloat, given their heavy influx over the past several months.
According to him, while he does not believe that they have diverted their business to Panama, especially given the fact that many Cubans cannot easily acquire visas to that country and Guyana’s prices may be far cheaper, he thinks that the problem has to do with the chartered airline service.
The businessman believes if that issue is corrected, then it will offer more ease to Cubans travelling here to do business and it will encourage more of them to come to Guyana. However, he said that this issue would need to be urgently addressed before a significant decline took effect.
Meanwhile, a businesswoman told this newspaper that she was convinced that the declining numbers given by Gouveia might be accurate since the number of flights bringing Cubans to Guyana have been significantly reduced. In addition, she is seeing fewer Cubans on Regent Street and in other shopping areas in the city.
In November 2016, EasySky Airline reported that it was taking 300 Cubans to Guyana each week to conduct business, mainly to shop large quantities of clothing, electronic and other items.