New Business Minister Haimraj Rajkumar, who also has responsibility for the tourism sector, recently met with industry stakeholders as part of familiarising himself with the portfolio, and to meet with, and listen to, the views of key players in the field. During his remarks, he underlined the point that for Guyana to be successfully marketed abroad, there is need for the country to be promoted locally in a more aggressive manner. He pointed out that quite a lot of Guyanese choose to go abroad for vacation, as against enjoying what obtains locally.
This is indeed a fact, and this may be so for various reasons, including cost, standard of services locally etc. On this basis, the minister stated that much more needs to be done by local stakeholders to make citizens begin to understand and appreciate more of what Guyana has to offer, so that they, in turn, can become “ambassadors of tourism”.
The minister was indeed correct in his assessment of the present situation and what needs to be done. However, many were expecting to hear more from him regarding his vision for the sector, and what policy intervention would be made by his government to address some of the very challenges he raised.
Our tourism potential is huge; the challenge is for stakeholders, including Government and the private sector, to pool their talents and resources and create a package that would be affordable and attractive to both Guyanese and foreigners.
We had stated before that there is need for more collaboration between all stakeholders in an effort to capitalise on opportunities available in the tourism sector. Guyana is considered one of the most attractive and unique tourism destinations in the world. Unlike our Caribbean counterparts, whose fare is typically sun, sand and sea, Guyana has a different type of tourism product with our irresistible combination of fascinating and breathtaking natural beauty, pristine Amazonian rainforests, immense waterfalls, amazing wildlife, vibrant Indigenous culture, and rich cultural heritage. The Tourism Ministry, the Guyana Tourism Authority and other partners must continue to explore ways in which they can capitalise on opportunities to aggressively market this unique product abroad.
That said, over the years, Guyana has expended a considerable amount of resources to develop new and innovative eco-friendly tourism products, and we are now seeing some of those initiatives bearing fruit. For example, a few months ago, Guyana’s tourism product received a major boost when this country was named the world’s best eco-tourist destination.
Certainly, there is still much more work to be done, as there are some impediments that pose a threat to the development of a thriving tourism sector. Issues such as expensive air travel, lack of trained personnel in the tourism and other related sectors etc, continue to pose challenges. These are issues that must remain on the front burner to be addressed, as they have a direct impact on the quality and affordability of the tourism package we offer.
With the oil sector about to take off, more persons — both Guyanese in the diaspora and foreign citizens — will be coming here either to work, visit, or for academic purposes. The focus should be on putting in place systems aimed at projecting a positive image of our country. To begin with, there is need for citizens to start cleaning up their surroundings, especially those living in the capital city, towns, and major centres, where tourists traverse. The capital city is a main centre of attraction for visitors, but on any regular day, a walk around the city streets and surrounding areas would leave one sick at the huge pile-up of garbage and other refuse languishing at certain points.
It has been observed that ‘school talks’ was one of those initiatives undertaken by the Ministry and others as part of activities to mark Tourism Awareness Month. This should certainly continue throughout the year, and maybe the Ministry can engage students and teachers in different projects which could help spread awareness about tourism and its importance to the economy and the country as a whole.
A thriving tourism sector would benefit all Guyanese, as more persons would be able to secure employment, our country’s revenue would be boosted, and many other related industries would prosper, among other benefits.