GUYANA’S first five-star hotel is up and running under the Marriott International brand and the country’s Head of State is optimistic that the benefits will be huge, inspite of the numerous challenges to the project.
“The service standards of the industry can be expected to rise. We can expect increased training and commitment to service as a result of Marriott setting the standard. We can also expect continued investment by other hotels in improving their rooms and other amenities. Our capacity to host events/conferences will be considerably expanded, and this will spill over to all users of the hospitality sector,” the President told invitees at an opening reception at the Kingston Hotel on Thursday evening.
The 197-room structure employs 230 Guyanese and boasts a magnificent Presidential Suite, large and small meeting spaces and banquet facilities, a modern restaurant, executive lounge, a great room and outdoor bar and dining area among other features. Soon to be made additions include its entertainment complex, inclusive of a casino, night club and specialty restaurant, by year-end.
“The number of persons looking to visit Guyana knowing that we have a global brand like Marriott will increase; indeed the Marriott marketing brand will promote Guyana and this hotel. I expect as our economy continues to grow, more international brands, more Marriotts will be built. This project represents part of an integrated strategy to improve our travel and tourism sector,” President Ramotar said.
He noted that increased international arrivals and departures for the last decade have led to an investment of about US$150 million to expand the airport. Similarly, he noted that the proposed dedicated hospitality school will start this year and there has been an increase in the number of international airlines in Guyana. “So now we have more passenger lift to bring many visitors and overseas-based Guyanese friends and relatives.”
The President noted that these initiatives are supported by a growing and vibrant economy, which will see new projects in gold mining, an expanding Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector, the infrastructure of the country, including the hydro-electric project, new roads and expanded ports and oil and gas drilling.
“Hopefully Exxon’s US$200 million well will provide positive results by next month. Others are expected to drill soon, such as Repsol and CGX.”
While the Marriott has become a reality shortly after it began in 2012, President Ramotar said the road has been bumpy and “making this project happen has been a challenge. It had to overcome considerable odds, but today despite these attacks and slanders by people specialised in negativity and destroying things, it has become a reality…this property and hotel should make all Guyanese proud.”
Among the challenges has been financing for the project, since it was denied Parliamentary approval following the political Opposition’s refusal to accept the project.
Government secured a private equity investor. However, the legal actions, along with the risks associated with the non-passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill have been of concern to the investor resulting in the non-conclusion of their investment.
“Once the legal action affecting the financing is resolved, my Government will determine how we proceed… Following the fallout from the failure to pass the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, Marriott has agreed to be the operator of the Entertainment Complex.”
The President said that US$27 million debt financing via Republic Bank has been committed and all legal documentation executed to allow disbursement. Of this, US$15.25 million has been disbursed and “we expect the balance to come after the current legal challenge is overcome.
Marriott Guyana is an iconic building sitting on the Kingston waterfront of the Atlantic Ocean, transforming the landscape and, according to Marriott International Senior Vice President Ms. Brenda Durham, this hotel is one in more than 3,000 under the brand, but is very special to the group.
She said the hotel reflects not only the Guyanese culture and artefacts, but the warm hospitality of the people, hence, Marriott International is committed to its success and is impressed by the hard work put in by those Guyanese hired by the brand to get the hotel started. (GINA)