Tourism Ministry needs dedicated, standalone Minister – THAG

Following an announcement that Business Minister Dominic Gaskin will now be responsible for the tourism industry and that Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes will relinquish her responsibility of the tourism sector, the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) has voiced their opinion that this decision was taken without much consideration.

According to reports, the rationale behind this move is based on the need for greater focus on public telecommunications, even after Minister Hughes managed both sectors effectively. Minister Hughes had amassed a vast knowledge of the telecommunications sector, having graduated from University of the West Indies, with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in Mass Communications in addition to her 20 years of on-field knowledge. Minister Hughes will serve as Tourism Minister until the end of June, as Gaskin will take over effective July 1, 2016. Hughes has also previously served as Director of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana.

The Tourism and Hospitality Association expressed their disappointment with the change, stating that at the commencement of the new Government’s term in office, the Association welcomed the identification of Hughes as a standalone Tourism Minister. However, the Association stated that over the course of the last 12 months, this portfolio has been drastically diluted to the proposed move being presented.

“If the current Minister of Public Communication, with a strong background in and understanding of the industry, is too busy to address the needs of the industry, how could an equally demanding portfolio of the Minister of Business be able to devote attention to the Tourism Sector?” a release from the Association stated.

The Association posited that it is critical to the industry’s development to have a Minister who has the time to focus on the sector’s development, understands the needs of the industry and auxiliary sectors; such as transportation, agriculture, culture, arts and craft, and with the depth of knowledge of the key stakeholders’ ability to effect change.

The tourism body further stated that 2015 was a productive year for the sector, as the Minister in charge understood the needs and the concerns of the sector and was able to make representation on their behalf, both at the regional and international level, which they said was very well received. As such, they stated that they are hopeful that the decision to have Hughes relinquish responsibility of the sector is given further consideration.

The Association also pointed out that they have noted the commitment to foster sector growth in the Government’s manifesto; however; with two budgets presented in the past, this commitment remains largely undelivered. The body further stated that they are of the opinion that the steps taken by Government in the last year in the administration of the sector are regressive and disadvantageous to tourism development.

“THAG now believes that the steps taken by Government in the last year in the administration of the sector are regressive and disadvantageous to our development. The tourism sector is keenly focused on answering President Granger’s call for a green economy and believes that tourism is one of the few sustainable pillars in our country’s economy.

The Government of Guyana identified that tourism contributes nine per cent of revenue per annum to the [Gross Domestic Product] GDP and the recently produced report from the Tax Advisory Board stated that because the capital and labour ratio is low, tourism is one of the sectors with the greatest job creation potential; however, no allowances have been made to build the industry. Imagine what the industry could achieve with our own dedicated Minister of Tourism,” the Association stated.