The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on Guyana’s tourism sector. The Government has acknowledged these challenges, and has begun to put a number of measures in place to revive the sector. President Dr Irfaan Ali, a few days ago, during the launch of Tourism Month, expressed that he is optimistic that the sector would bounce back from these challenges.
In many countries across the world, the impact on tourism has been the same, or even worse. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that world tourism declined by 65 per cent in the first half of 2020, resulting in the loss of more than 850 million jobs and as much as US$1.2 trillion in earnings.
As pointed out by President Ali, in Guyana’s case, the tourism sector is believed to have suffered an estimated decline of 46 per cent of its revenues for the first half of this year, with 30 per cent of the sector’s employees losing their jobs and an additional 36 per cent being placed on unpaid leave.
The Government has shown that it is very concerned about what is taking place, and has promised that it would actively be engaged in employing measures to stimulate the revival of the sector. The new Tourism Minister is expected to lay out her vision for the sector and what policy intervention would be made by her Government in the coming days to address the challenges confronting the sector.
We have noted that efforts are being made to encourage locals to take advantage of the opportunities to experience what is on offer here. This is a good way to start reviving the sector, considering that due to the pandemic it may be quite some time before foreign tourists come to these shores. In any case, for Guyana to be successfully marketed abroad, there is need for the country to be promoted locally in a more aggressive manner.
It is no secret that quite a lot of Guyanese choose to go abroad for vacation, as against enjoying what obtains locally, and this may be so for various reasons, including cost, standard of services locally etc. For this reason, much more needs to be done by local stakeholders so that citizens would begin to understand and appreciate more of what Guyana has to offer, so that they in turn can become “ambassadors of tourism”.
Our tourism potential is huge. The challenge is for stakeholders, including Government and private sector, to pool their talents and resources and create a package that would be affordable and attractive to both Guyanese and foreigners.
Guyana’s tourism industry is considered to be one of the most attractive and unique destinations in the world.
Unlike our Caribbean counterparts – typical sun, sand and sea tourism – 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, a vibrant indigenous culture, and a rich cultural heritage.
Important to note, too, is that due to the social distancing guidelines to fight the spread of the COVID-19, Guyana is considered to be uniquely positioned as one of the safest destinations, with vast pristine open spaces.
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 Guyana now being an oil-producing nation, more persons, both Guyanese in the diaspora and foreign citizens, would 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, and on any regular day, a walk around the city streets and surrounding areas would leave one ‘sick’ of the huge pile up of garbage and other refuse at certain points.
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.