INTERNATIONAL and local business tycoons, members of the diplomatic corps and a number of Government officials yesterday joined Head of State Donald Ramotar, and Ms. Brenda Durham, Senior Vice-President and Regional General Counsel for Marriott International Inc, for the historic opening of the Guyana Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown.All stood to attention as the patriot pulse, “Dear Land of Guyana” reverberated, signalling the arrival of the Head of State, Donald Ramotar and also heralding the beginning of activities to mark the historic occasion, no doubt to be favourably recorded in the history books.
CRÈME DE LA CRÈME
The President was greeted by Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), Chairman and Deputy Chairperson, Winston Brassington and Marcia Nadir-Sharma, along with Marriott Guyana General Manager, Robert Grisi, for a red carpet entrance for the festivities to follow.
The list of dignitaries reflected the crème de la crème of Guyanese business and social class, executive power, foreign relations and international partners.
An international media contingent also descended on the Georgetown Marriott to join their Guyana counterparts in reporting on the opening of the world-class facility, built and opened to the world despite an obstinate Opposition front.
Against the odds, those that joined the President for the historic occasion included: PPP/C prime ministerial candidate Elisabeth Harper; Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh; Ministers of Government, Irfaan Ali, Priya Manickchand, Dr. Frank Anthony, Norman Whittaker, Juan Edghill, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Robeson Benn and Jenifer Westford.
Members of the diplomatic corps in attendance included US Charge d’ Affaires to Guyana, Bryan Hunt and Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr. Nicola Giles.
Other members of the business community in attendance included Private Sector Commissioner (PSC) Chairman, Ramesh Persaud; PSC Board Member, Ramesh Dookhoo; Economist, Dr. Peter Ramsaroop; and former Republic Bank (Guyana) CEO, John Alves.
Other persons in attendance also were Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira; former Government Minister, Manzoor Nadir; Auditor-General, Deodat Sharma; Director of Tourism, Indranauth Haralsingh; and New Guyana Marketing Corporation Director, Nizam Hussain among a host of other notable VIPs.
Beaming with what can only be interpreted as an appreciation of the occasion, the President, after exchanging a few brief pleasantries, made his way to unveil the plaque, his Presidential stamp of approval, which bears his Presidential Seal.
Next on the agenda was the symbolic ribbon- cutting ceremony.
For this, the President was joined by the Marriott Senior VP, Ms. Durham, and both, armed with “Golden Scissors” in hand, declared open on the 16th Day of April, 2015 the “Guyana Marriott Hotel, Georgetown”.
Following a deserving round of applause in appreciation of the round of events marking the occasion, President Ramotar was “welcomed to the Guyana Marriott” by yet another beaming, beautiful Guyanese smile, which adorned the face of the first smartly uniformed young lady to accompany the President and guests to the entrance of the “Great Room” overlooking the lobby, for the toasts and symbolic handing over of the “Keys to the Marriott” before a chic reception and some chit-chat.
President Ramotar was joined by Rahul Vir, Area Vice- President, South America, Marriott International Inc; Senior VP, Ms. Durham; Tourism Minister, Irfaan Ali; Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh; Marriott Guyana General Manager, Mr. Grisi; AHI Chairman and Deputy Chairperson, Brassington and Nadir-Sharma for this leg of events.
The Marriott International Senior Vice-President, who flew into the country along with a slew of executives for the occasion, in toasting success to the partnership, said that the International Brand is proud to be associated with Guyana and opening its doors here.
President Ramotar, in his toast of success for the Guyana Marriott, remarked on the historic nature of the accomplishment, which will surely reap its intended benefits for Guyana.
REPSOL Country Manager, Giancarlo Ariza, the first international guest to be registered at the hotel, was ecstatic at the service being rendered by the Guyanese staff, and told the Guyana Chronicle that the facility is comparable to that of similar facilities the world over.
He was in high praise, too, of the Guyanese flair brought to the edifice, right down to the tiniest detail, even in the carvings on the wall.
LOCAL CULTURE AND TANG
Ariza, who has checked into the hotel as its first guest, has been with REPSOL in Guyana for the past four years, and jumped at the opportunity to stay at the Guyana Marriott as soon as it presented itself.
The international guest, who checked in for a long-term stay during his tenure in Guyana, was also high in praise for the Guyana Marriott’s cuisine, which he reported was infused with the local culture and tang.
The events, however were not unaffected by the Political Opposition, which made good on its threat to disrupt the proceedings.
Ahead of the scheduled 10:00hrs start, members of the Opposition, including A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s Ronald Bulkan and Alliance For Change (AFC) General Secretary, David Patterson among others, began assembling outside of the nearby Pegasus Hotel.
Barricades had been erected along the roadway outside of the Guyana Marriott, with police ranks at every corner since Bulkan had publicly threatened to protest the event.
Minutes before the arrival of the Head of State, waiting guests were treated to a “distasteful display” as remarked by one international visitor that, “this cannot be good.”
Ranks of the Guyana Police Force that had positioned themselves along the perimeter of the hotel were scampering eastward toward the direction of the Pegasus Hotel by which time it was made clear. A group of placard- bearing protestors had broken through the police barricades making their way to the entrance of the hotel voicing various chants in opposition to the US$52M project.
The small band of protestors by this time was joined by City Mayor, Hamilton Green, and social activists Sherlina Nageer and Freddie Kissoon, among others.
Green claimed to be on a walkabout of the city following a high-tide warning, but questioned as to why he would need a placard to conduct such a walkabout, Bulkan made it clear, “We are here to protest the Marriott.”
Having put on a display for President Ramotar as he was escorted into the Marriott Courtyard, the protestors settled into a simmer and dallied, placards in hand, a while longer before slinking away.
The activities to mark the opening of the hotel continued in earnest and unhindered into the night with revellers basking in the “new-smell feel” of Guyana’s very own internationally branded Marriott Hotel.
The 197-room Marriott Hotel, Casino and Entertainment Complex was built at a cost of just over US$50M since its sod-turning ceremony in November 2011.
Located at the convergence of the Demerara River and Atlantic Ocean, the Guyana Marriott Hotel Georgetown boasts a Presidential Suite, Family Suites and Standard Rooms.
Guests of the hotel have at their disposal the state –of- the- art fitness centre, again with the accompanying ambience of the Atlantic Ocean, Conference Rooms, Pool Facilities and a number of dining restaurants.
The 10-storey edifice sits on seven acres of prime ocean- front property, and was constructed primarily by Shanghai Construction Group (SCG).
By Gary Eleazar