November is dedicated Tourism Awareness Month in Guyana. This year’s theme is: “All Sectors, One Tourism”, and as expected, there have been, and will continue to be, several activities, including the Restaurant Week, industry training, and tourism sector awards, among others, to spread more awareness and market the country as a unique tourism package for both Guyanese and foreign nationals.
There is no doubt that the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on Guyana’s tourism sector. The Government has acknowledged these challenges, and has put a number of measures in place to revive the sector.
In many countries across the world, the pandemic’s 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 Dr Irfaan Ali, in Guyana’s case, the tourism sector is believed to have suffered an estimated decline of 46 per cent of its revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic for the first half of 2020.
Since taking office, the new Tourism Minister has laid out her vision for the sector, and the policy interventions are being made while addressing the challenges confronting the sector.
We have noted that efforts were made to encourage locals to take advantage of the opportunities to experience what is on offer here.
This was a good way to start reviving the sector. 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 more packages 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 breath-taking natural beauty, pristine Amazonian rainforests, immense waterfalls, amazing wildlife, a vibrant Indigenous culture, and a rich cultural heritage.
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, 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, 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 revenues would be boosted, and many other related industries would prosper, among other benefits.