GUYANA will re-examine the Guiana Shield project, an initiative where Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are marketed as a single tourism package, as it seeks to woo more visitors here.
This initiative will be given a fillip in a move that is part of a wider plan to pay more attention on packaging, inclusive of visitors’ airfare, accommodation and activities at an affordable price.
Speaking to the Guyana Chronicle, Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes said that aside from the Guiana Shield, Guyana will be looking Regionally to bolster the sector.
A few years ago, an agreement was negotiated with Barbados whereby visitors who go there for the sun and sand would get an opportunity to come to Guyana to experience ‘eco’ and adventure tourism as part of a tourism package. Similar initiatives are expected to come on stream with sister CARICOM nations.
The Ministry of Tourism will also be strategically targeting the Guyanese Diaspora and the European markets to attract more tourists to these beautiful shores.
Minister Hughes has identified the Diaspora as an area of much promise and said every effort will be made to capitalise on the opportunities available through aggressive promotion of local festivals and other major events.
While focus will be channelled towards marketing Guyana aboard, locals will not be neglected. Attention will be paid to costs as it relates to taxes with the aim of making local air travel more affordable to Guyanese.
A trip to Kaieteur Falls costs between US$150-US$200. This sum is not affordable to ordinary Guyanese but the high cost is reportedly due to the high tax on aviation fuel.
“It is a challenge because when a trip to Kaieteur is beyond the reach of the average Guyanese, then you are saying that not many of the local people can enjoy our tourism product,” the Minister said, adding that it is a setback to word-of-mouth promotion of the country’s tourism products, which is a very effective means of selling Guyana.
She added: “We want our taxi drivers to tell visitors when they arrive at our airports that the Kaieteur Falls is a must-see before they leave Guyana. They must say I’ve been there and it is a breathtaking, life-changing experience.”
The unaffordable cost to ordinary Guyanese to visit local tourist attractions, a reduction of the VAT rate for the tourism sector and a more aggressive but strategic marketing of Guyana overseas, Minister Hughes said are issues she wants to plug.
“So all those are initiatives that are part of the tourism mix that we want to really be able to push,” she said.
Previously, the Ministry of Tourism had the portfolios of Trade, Industry and Commerce and these somewhat overshadowed the spotlight on tourism.
“What happened in the past is when it [tourism] has been lumped with Industry and Commerce, which are very, very huge and important portfolios in Guyana, especially when you are looking at rice, sugar and traditionally large areas, tourism has had to take a back seat so to speak. I think with a coordinated Ministry and an approach, they (the Ministry) should be able to better focus resources that exist to the tourism function,” Minister Hughes told this publication.
Now a separate entity, the Tourism Ministry has its own staff and has been relocated from South Road, Lacytown to Colgrain House, Camp Street, Georgetown.
With a dedicated Ministry, there is a unique opportunity for Guyana to focus energies towards making tourism a meaningful contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and as an industry that can be expanded, serving as a major source of employment.
According to Minister Hughes, the tourism sector has to be recognised as an export industry.
The World Travel and Tourism Council, the authority on global travel and tourism, reported that direct contribution of travel and tourism in Guyana raked in some $18.8 billion (3 per cent of total GDP) in 2013.
This sum, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates, will increase to $26.8 billion by 2024. The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP two years ago was $47 billion or 7.6 per cent of GDP. It is expected to increase to $69 billion by 2024.
The Council also projected that visitor exports will grow to $18.8 billion by 2024 and travel and tourism investment will reach $4.4 billion by that time.
The local tourism industry offers an array of services, providing direct employment for some 8,000 and indirect employment to thousands more.