— says President Ali amid decline due to COVID-19
WITH the tourism sector being one of the hardest-hit by COVID-19, President, Dr Irfaan Ali, has assured the tourism industry players that his government is committed to supporting all stakeholders through the very critical recovery process.
“The Guyana Tourism Authority continues with their marketing efforts to promote nature, adventure and eco-tourism both locally and internationally, and, with the support of the private sector, we have no doubt that this will allow the sector to rebound with strengthened resolve and greater results,” the President said in a message to mark World Tourism Day 2020.
Emphasising that his government recognises the important role that it will play in this process, the President noted the introduction of a series of measures in the Emergency Budget that are geared in this direction.
These, he said were crafted to bolster the sector’s recovery process and include the reversal of VAT on hinterland travel and special incentives for new hotels and businesses, among others.
“We will also implement policies to strengthen and grow the workforce in the tourism sector to cater to the influx of visitors expected as a result of the focused marketing as well as the emergence of the oil and gas sector. This will also help to create more opportunities, which will lead to the economic empowerment of men, women and youth in rural communities,” the President noted.
The tourism sector is a major source of employment, government revenue and foreign exchange earnings.
“We, therefore, have an opportunity to transform our approach to the continued development of the sector to ensure a balance among people, nature, and the climate. We are confident that, over the next few years, our country will witness a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient development of the tourism sector,” the President said.
World Tourism Day is celebrated under the theme “Tourism and Rural Development”, and the President highlighted the role of tourism in development.
“Today, we join the rest of the world to recognise the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities, while, at the same time, preserving cultural and natural heritage around the world,” the President said.
Adding that this year’s theme is all the more relevant to Guyana, Dr. Ali said Guyanese have traditionally placed high regard on the celebration of their unique natural and cultural heritage and the preservation of the environment.
This year, the world grapples with the effects of COVID-19, which have caused significant disruptions in the global economy.
An estimated 30 per cent of those employed in the sector have lost their jobs, and an additional 36 per cent had been furloughed or placed on unpaid leave due to COVID-19.
Here at home, as of April 2020, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) reported that the sector lost an estimated 46 per cent of its total revenue over a six-month period.
This, the President said is in contrast to the revenue earned for the same period in 2019.
By the end of the first quarter of 2020, the Head of State said the COVID-19 pandemic had brought international travel to an abrupt halt and significantly impacted the tourism industry.
Over the last two years, he said Guyana recorded its highest visitor arrivals, during which time it also won six international awards (four of which were tied to sustainable tourism).
“We therefore resolve to build on that by supporting, from a policy level, the continued promotion of our community-led and owned experiences,” he said.
Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, the President said it is important for the sector to regroup.