-as COVID-19 measures relaxed
THE tourism sector, which has been devastated by the restrictions imposed to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, finally has a chance to breathe again as per the newly gazetted COVID–19 emergency measures, which take effect from Tuesday.
According to paragraph (6) section (1)(r) of these new measures, hotels and other accommodation, including interior lodges and resorts and tour companies are now listed as essential services, which are allowed to operate 24 hours each day.
The new measures highlighted that these services shall comply with any health and safety protocols issued by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), in order to minimise the risk and spread of the coronavirus when hosting clients.
“The operator of any service permitted to operate in accordance with paragraph 6(1)(r) shall be responsible for ensuring that their staff and clients comply with this Notice, any health and safety protocols issued by the Guyana Tourism Authority and any guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.”
This paragraph also emphasised that the GTA shall be responsible for monitoring these services and ensuring the implementation of the measures under the notice. If any service fails to comply with this notice or any of the protocols or guidelines issued, the Minister of Health may close the operation of that business or prohibit an activity.
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.
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). Guyana is a recognised eco-tourism hub.
After the pandemic hit Guyana, however, many of the stakeholders in the tourism sector have complained about the difficulties they faced due to the closure of airports and even the restrictions to local travel- efforts employed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In November, President Irfaan Ali acknowledged that the revenues of the local tourism sector have declined by an estimated 46 per cent in 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.
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 been reopened, importantly, under strict COVID-19 prevention and containment protocols. Now, with these restrictions lifted even further, it is expected that tourism will start to rebound.
Billions of dollars in hotel investments have been announced recently. Popular hotels which will be coming to Guyana include the Delta Marriott, Hilton, Radisson and the Hyatt. Additionally, many locals have begun investing as well, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity.
Kerwin Bollers from Guyana’s own Hits and Jams Entertainment is one of the investors for the H-Towers Luxury Hotel, which will be housing the renowned Sheraton Hotel and the Element Hotel, both owned by the Marriott. This investment will be close to US$125 million, and construction is expected to commence at Providence, East Bank Demerara, in the first quarter of 2021.
Palm Court, also, will soon be constructing a US$54 million (G$11B) mega Palm Court International Hotel on the outskirts of Georgetown, while King’s Guyana will be constructing a new US$10 million (G$2B) King’s Hotel.
“Guyana is going to become an economic powerhouse and so hotel needs will grow significantly,” President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) Mitra Ramkumar posited, adding, “Guyana will attract a lot of business travellers and a lot of businesspeople will prefer to stay with those hotel chains they know or are familiar with.”