GOVERNMENT has designated tourism as a priority sector, influenced by the National Development Strategy’s conclusion that tourism as a sector can contribute to the sustainable development of Guyana; earn foreign exchange and provide job opportunities while conserving the natural environment. And so, with an allocation of $200M, the Ministry of Tourism continued the
expansion and development of the tourism sector in 2012.
The ministry and its arm the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) have been responsible for initiatives towards the growth and development of this industry. The GTA is responsible for designing and marketing tourism strategies on behalf of the government, in addition to regulating standards for all industry participants. In this regard, a look back at tourism activities for this the year just gone by show that Guyana continues to make in-roads into new tourism territories, locally, regionally and internationally.
The thrust of 2012 was, undisputedly, reigniting a desire for the natural beauty of Guyana-stirring up an interest in “Re-discovering home”.
While 2012 had its share of challenges, the Tourism Ministry kept the bigger picture in focus, that of increasing tourist arrivals and improving domestic tourism. Guyana, more often than not, is referred to as the country with vast hinterlands and natural beauty; the famous Kaieteur Falls its number one visitors’ attraction.
It was in 2012 that Guyana hosted the Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, which showcased the local tourism product to 250 delegates and over 30 international journalists. The delegations were treated to a number of documentaries made by international television networks such as Discovery Channel and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The Rupununi Region again justified the resources poured into its development as it took the regional spotlight by winning the 2012 Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation and Travelmole (CTO/Travelmole) award for improving the quality of life of the district’s inhabitants. Additionally, Guyana won awards covering all aspects of sustainability, from overall excellence, to accommodation, community, heritage and biodiversity.
The government made significant strides in continuing to provide support to Amerindian villages to preserve their cultural relics, symbolic of life during pre-colonial days. The intention of the government was to expand tourism to other Amerindian communities across Guyana; transforming them into irresistible tourism destinations, increasing investment in training and education, and developing small businesses. In Orealla, the Tourism Ministry in association with Cortours began putting together a committee to manage and expand the Orealla Regatta.
New Amsterdam Town Day, Region 6 was held on October 26 under the theme “Collaboration and Unity for the restoration of New Amsterdam.” Meanwhile in Region 9, a number of private sector businesses and the ministry pulled together the 11th Rupununi Expo. The annual event was successfully held under the theme “Uniting Our Resources for a Secured Future”.
In March, 25 vehicles began their nine-day, 529-mile Annual Pakaraima Mountain Safari. The convoy explored 14 Amerindian communities during the trip, partaking of the taste of the distinct, rich flavour of the indigenous peoples and their cultures.
Between January and November, the GTA recorded an overall increase of 17.2% in visitor arrivals. The ministry uses the best technology to record arrivals to Guyana. The GTA Director, Indranauth Haralsingh said that the Management information system for tourism-the MIST software-was implemented to adequately record and analyse data.
In every great story there are some great people; The Ministry of Tourism expressed its gratitude to persons who made immeasurable contributions to the tourism sector. Several industries were also recognised for placing Guyana in the international spotlight. Awards were presented to the top 11 persons in the sector for their excellence in tourism development; awards fell under several categories – Tourism Pioneers – Correia Group of Companies – Tourism; Community-based Tourism- Conservation International, Destination Guyana Promotion- Blue Paw Promotion, Pillar of Tourism Industry Award- Mr. Lennox John, Best Marketing Campaign- Wilderness Explorers, Tourism Recognition- Mr. Richard Ousman – Wonderland Tours, Tour Guide of the Year- Mr. Paul Waldron, Tourism Entrepreneur- Mr. Colin Edwards, Best Tourism Ambassador- Mr. John ‘Slingshot’ Drepaul ‘Slingshot’, Most Out-standing Community Tourism Project- Aranaputa Processors Friendly Society, and Tourism Recognition for Best Supporting Hotel- Princess Hotel.
Meanwhile, 17 lucky persons were given the opportunity to bask in the unmatched beauty of their country as they journeyed to the Majestic Kaieteur falls and navigated the waters of the mighty Essequibo. In addition, during the year as well, the ministry continued to support cultural and other significant local observances among which are Amerindian Heritage Month, Arrival Month, Emancipation Month, Diwali, Christmas, and Eid-ul-Adha.
Private/ Public Partnerships
Much work was also undertaken to improve the aesthetics of the city environs, and the Tourism Ministry and the GTA focused significantly, during the year, on the implementation of urban renewal plans.
In December, the Parliament Square was commissioned on Brickdam, a project that stemmed from several proposals put forward during the first annual Building Expo and is part of the Brickdam Renewal Plan. The square is an initiative to counter-balance the loss of green space within Georgetown, complement surrounding historical structures and add vitality to a unique recreational tourism place of value.
Local service providers continued to be offered opportunities to promote what they offer. Apart from the annual GuyExpo, the ministry made arrangements for businesses to advertise at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Furthermore a special group consisting of representatives from both sectors was tasked with the responsibility of consulting with all tourism service providers towards establishing regulations for the sector. In 2013, the ministry will continue and has sketched plans to regularise service providers.
Government has remained committed to acknowledging the people who have shared its vision, and, have committed to work along with the government to ensure that Guyana’s little secret is talked about at every end of the globe. To this end, the ministry expressed appreciation to persons who have made immeasurable contributions to the tourism sector. Several industries were also recognised for placing Guyana in the international spot light. Among the awardees were: Conservation International, Blue Paw Artists, Lennox John owner of Splashmins Resort, Aranaputa Processors’ Friendly Society, and Princess Hotel.
According to Tourism Minister (ag) Irfaan Ali, the stable economic environment has fostered a dynamic and growing tourism industry in Guyana. In this regard, 2012 also provided an opportunity through the ministry and the GTA to tighten partnerships between the public and the private sectors. The annual exposition, GuyExpo, saw participation from approximately 400 exhibitors from the Caribbean, North America and Asia. Representatives from 18 countries were in Guyana at that time.
Investments from the private sector grew, while infrastructure to support the sector has expanded with the establishment of more road links, bridges, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and in the pipeline an athletic track, renewable energy, solar panels in rural communities, and a new airport among other things.
Looking to 2013
The Tourism Ministry has had several meetings with members of the private sector towards ensuring that the 2013 budget allocation is adequate to move the sector forward. Consultations offered service providers the opportunity to raise concerns, make suggestions and offer solutions to challenges facing the local tourism sector.
The ministry plans to expand its current training programmes and regularise services towards improving the quality of service provided in every Administrative Region.
Within the first quarter of 2013, the ministry hopes to initiate discussions with WestJet, Air Canada, and Jet Blue air carriers to stimulate and motivate interests in investing in the Guyana.
Meanwhile, several new investments were approved during the later portion of 2012 which will definitely embellish existing services to meet certain international expectations. In 2013, all being equal, one can expect to start seeing noteworthy additions to the booming tourism sector. Minister Ali announced that collectively 14 new local investment interests totalling more than $25B will be implemented and one of the spin-offs would be employment created for more than 800 persons.
While in 2013 investments in the sector will soar, the minister mentioned that it is hoped that the private sector would also invest in keeping the city clean. He said that through the urban development plan he hopes that the private sector will adopt sections of the city.
Considerable emphasis will be placed on regularising the service providers in this sector. The ministry will continue what it had started in 2012 as it is determined to ensure that the quality of service is improved across the board. There are 199 operators, guides, and properties registered so far, 87 hotels, 64 tour guides, 30 tour operators and 18 lodges and resorts.
The ministry and the GTA will also continue to focus on training as they plan to approach the Carnegie School of Home Economics to conceptualise special training for persons working in this growing sector