DESPITE tourism being one of the sectors severely affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, President Irfaan Ali, in his address in observance of Tourism Awareness Month, assured that Guyana’s tourism sector will rebound.
This year, Tourism Awareness Month, is being observed under the theme: “Destination Guyana, Recover and Rebuild – Getting ready to bounce back!” According to President Ali, this theme aptly reflects the challenge that the local tourism sector is facing.
Globally, it is estimated that tourism has declined by 65 per cent during the first half of this year. This has resulted in a loss of more than 850 million jobs and as much as US $1.2 trillion in earnings.
“Guyana has not been immune to these adverse effects,” the President said, highlighting that the revenues of the local tourism sector have declined by an estimated 46 per cent at the first half of the year. Some 30 per cent of the sector’s employees lost their jobs, with an additional 36 per cent placed on unpaid leave.
The President said that, over the last two years, Guyana recorded its highest visitor arrivals, during which time it also won six international awards (four of which were tied to sustainable tourism).
According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) report, released in June, tourism-dependent countries in the Caribbean were expected to record negative growth in their real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by a massive 10.3 per cent this year.
In 2021, there will be an expected growth of 4.8 per cent. These countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In the October update of this report, the IMF said, “Small states as well as tourism-dependent and commodities-based economies are in a particularly difficult spot.”
“I am optimistic, however, that our sector is resilient and will rebound from this setback. I am supremely confident that while our market may have been affected, our tourism product remains unblemished by the pandemic and, that with the right support, the local tourism sector will recover.
“My Government is not leaving this recovery to chance. It is actively engaged in employing measures to stimulate the revival of tourism,” President Ali said, adding, “We have already signalled our intention to nurture the recovery and revitalisation of the sector.”
He reminded that in the 2020 emergency budget, measures were introduced to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic on the sector. These include, the removal of the value-added tax on hinterland travel and the provision of special tax incentives for new hotels and tourism-related businesses. And, already the country’s international airports have reopened, importantly, under strict Covid-19 prevention and containment protocols.
The President emphasised that a collective effort is needed to safeguard the precious and diverse tourism product as he urged each Guyanese to continue to demonstrate the characteristic traditional Guyanese hospitality, to preserve and protect our natural environment and keep it free from pollution; and to ensure that the COVID-19 guidelines, designed to keep our people and our visitors safe are adhered to.
“Our tourism sector will emerge stronger and more resilient; jobs will be restored and Guyana will continue to entice the world with its astounding tourism product,” he emphasised.
For tourism awareness month, a host of activities have been conceptualised to help boost local tourism. Guyana Restaurant Week, for example, will be held from November 20 to 29. There will also be the launch of a Jonestown Trail, the Seven Curry tour, the rollout of an agro-tourism roadmap and several beautification and enhancement projects.
“I am hearted by the fact that hotels and restaurants have been actively following safety protocols, and I see more Guyanese adapting to the health guidelines which have formed our new norm,” Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond said in a press statement.
She assured that tourism awareness month, this year, allows individuals to experience Guyana’s breathtaking tourism product while remaining safe.