The previous editions on this thematic area sought to outline a strategic policy framework designed to aid in the recovery programme of the tourism and hospitality sector, which was the most badly affected sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To this end, tourism activities, which are captured under the services industry in GDP, accounted for a loss of 1.2 percent contribution to GDP, and, noting importantly that other services activities contracted by 51.2 percent, according to the Bank of Guyana’s Half Year Report for 2020, the 1.2 percent loss in GDP contribution from tourism can be translated to approximately Gy$11 billion. Therefore, the recovery cost of the sector might require a fraction of that, based on available financial resources, to about Gy$5 billion in the 2021 budget to implement the recovery measures proposed herein, using a “whole of government” approach as described within this framework.
In order to implement the proposed policy measures, a coordinated and harmonized approach is necessary in so doing, in order to yield effective results. For example, the reopening of the airports is critical for the tourism sector as well as efforts by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure to attract additional airlines to operate in Guyana; namely, the airline to provide direct flights from Guyana to the United Kingdom. As such, much more efforts like these would be necessary in the medium-to-long-term.
While studies on the global impact of COVID-19 on tourism sectors have shown that, due to safety reasons, international travel will continue to be restricted and tourism markets will be badly affected until such time as COVID-19 dissipates, perhaps; in the case of Guyana, because of its embryonic oil and gas industry, where oil production continues, Guyana stands at an advantage over other countries in the region to drive the recovery of its tourism sector, and this must be recognized by policymakers. These are, for example:
• Because oil production offshore is ongoing and more so Exxon recently received approval from the Government for its license to operate in their Payara development project, this means that we will continue to have expatriates coming into Guyana and we can expect a rotation of foreign workers. There will also be foreigners entering the country to work and to explore investment opportunities for both foreign companies that are already operating in the sector within the value chain and potential investors.
• There will also be the return of Guyanese migrants from the Diaspora as a result of the economic trajectory Guyana is being placed and the aggressive transformational and development projects in the pipeline. In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is slated to soon launch a Diaspora Engagement Strategy and Remigrant Policy Framework which will be implemented by the Diaspora Affairs Unit to be established within the Ministry.
In view of the aforementioned, a coordinated approach to facilitate the tourism recovery programme is paramount. In so doing, the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce should consider setting up a “Recovery Task Force”, made up of representatives from the following stakeholder groups:
1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Diaspora Affairs Unit
2. Guyana Office for Investment which now has a new and aggressive mandate to attract foreign investors
3. Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports
4. Ministry of Finance
5. Ministry of Education
6. Financial Institutions / Bankers Association
7. Private Sector Organizations (THAG, AmCham, GCCI, PSC, GMSA).
8. Small Business Bureau
9. Tourist Operators
The mandate of the proposed task force should be focused on aggressively driving the implementation, conducting studies, monitoring and evaluation of the proposed policy measures and initiatives contained herein, provided that these are adopted by the Government as a working framework. Also, the recovery period should be targeted over a one-year period given that most of the measures proposed should be up for consideration in the 2021 budget.
It should be mentioned that in view of the ambitious development projects that will be implemented in 2021 such as the housing development drive, the new Demerara Harbour Bridge, coupled with increased oil production, the East Coast Bypass Road Project, among others. With these projects being carried out concurrently, a one-year period targeted for recovery of the tourism sector and the economy at large is relatively suffice and doable; but, would have to be driven aggressively, in a coordinated and harmonized manner.
About the Author: JC. Bhagwandin is an economic and financial analyst, lecturer and business & financial consultant. The views expressed are exclusively his own and do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper and the institutions he represents. For comments, send to [email protected]