By Naomi Marshall
THE Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) is advocating for tourism operators to produce more products since it anticipates some 500,000 international visitors will be coming to the Amazon paradise by 2025.
According to the GTA, Guyana has experienced a 9.2 per cent increase in international arrivals for the period of January-May 2019, and as such, the market demand is filling its capacity, resulting in the need for more products.
GTA Director, Brian Mullis, speaking at a recent press conference, said Guyana is gradually building its image on the international arena.
“We are now being recognised as a leading global destination, with more and more people coming, but we have a fortuitous problem.
That problem at reference, he said, is unmet market demands. “We need more products,” Mullis said.
According to Mullis, there are any number of tax concessions and incentives for travelling tourism in the areas of ground transportation, accommodation, refurbishments, and for tour operators as well.
“However, recognising that tourism is an export sector, we are looking at advocating for that formal recognition of the sector as an export sector in 2020, so that we can be afforded some of the tax concessions and incentives that other export sectors have,” he noted.
With this recognition, the Authority would be able to significantly strengthen the enabling and policy environment to get increases in product development and increased investments, among other incentives.
“We basically want it to be possible for the sector to provide vehicles, particularly 4×4 vehicles, in the interior, but also larger transit vehicles for larger groups; up to 20 individuals. We want to see incentives for expanding existing lodging, particularly in the interior where the majority of our accommodations have an average of eight rooms. Refurbishing existing lodging as well, some of our lodging is tired, it’s in need to repair, enhancement, equipment and other wise,” Mullis explained.
He added: “Unlike our neighbouring destinations in the Caribbean that are known for sun, sand and sea, we are known for nature, adventure and culture, and people are looking to buy things such as inflatable kayaks, mountain bikes and any other equipment that people can use to enjoy the plethora of outdoor activities that we have here in the country.”
Based on GTA’s Strategic Visitors Flow Map, a high percentage of tourists entering Guyana are interested in experiencing tourism activities in and around Georgetown, and the lower and upper Essequibo regions, among other areas of interest. Due to this trend, the GTA has prioritised those areas for additional development.
“The increase in Kaieteur National Park is evident year by year. We saw a 10 per cent increase last year in visitation, and we are anticipating that it’s going to continue to grow,” Mullis said, adding: “Then, of course, with our premiere circuit in the Rupununi, visitation is growing there to the point where we are hearing from the tourism sector that a lot of lodges have been fully booked out for 2020.”
Also at the press conference was Minister of Business, Haimraj Rajkumar, who stated that the tourism sector will continue to be a high priority for the Government of Guyana, since it understands the value and transformative potential the sector has on the quality of life of Guyanese people.
“The ministry is supporting the development of tourism in our country, and we will see how best we can afford our investors and the concessions that they request,” Minister Rajkumar said.
He stated that citizens of Guyana should view themselves as ambassadors of the country, and should all play a role in the development of the local tourism sector.
“Regardless of which part the visitors to Guyana go, there are certain things that they would need, and those are accommodations, food and transportation, among other services, which we know that we have to provide. And in providing these services, we all can participate,” he explained.
In 2018, Guyana welcomed approximately 286,732 international visitors, which showed a 15.9 per cent increase in arrivals. Some 183,639 persons came for leisure, which reflects a 21 per cent increase from the previous year.
In June this year, Guyana was conferred the Latin American Travel Association (LATA)’s “Best in Sustainable Tourism” award. According to the GTA, the country was awarded during LATA’s “Experience Latin America” conference in London, England, Europe’s largest Business to Business (B2B) travel conference.
The LATA Award recognises destinations, individuals and/or companies with exemplary case studies of tourism or those who have made exceptional contribution to the development of sustainable travel in Latin America.
In March, Guyana was also named Best Ecotourism destination in the world. The award was presented to Guyana at the world-renowned ITB trade fair in Berlin, Germany.