–fully equipped to operate under new norm
FOR the past year, due to the deadly coronavirus, people the world over have had very limited opportunities for recreation, and while many countries are still battling harsh lockdown measures, Guyana has pulled through as one of the very few destinations capable of offering safe tourism travels and experiences during the ongoing pandemic. This is largely owing to the country’s small population, coupled with the fact that it boasts vast open spaces that easily allow for the strict implementation of all COVID-19 protocols.
At a press conference hosted on Friday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Ms. Carla James, Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) gave a detailed presentation on some of the mechanism that have been instituted to ensure that Guyana’s tourism and hospitality sector is able to operate safely. These include the establishment of a two-tier licensing system for all tourism operators, as well as comprehensive training for players within the industry.
Once operators are approved, they will be subjected to both planned and unplanned inspections. Tourism sites and accommodation entities are expected to close at 21:30hrs in keeping with the current national curfew.
All tourism businesses are only allowed to operate at 40 per cent capacity; in the case of dining areas, tables must be spaced six feet apart, while accommodating a maximum four chairs, all spaced three feet apart.
Proper sanitisation infrastructure and protocols must be adhered to, along with appropriate signage and queue markers. Eating establishments must have a display or disposable menus where this is not possible. Menus must also be sanitized after each guest interaction. There must be no buffet services, no bar stools and no pool tables. It will also be mandatory for all patrons and staff of each establishment to wear a mask.
Business operations that fail to comply with the regulations will be forced to shut down for at least one month; possibility also exists for errant managers/owners of the establishments to be charged.
Nonetheless, even amid a global pandemic, Guyana is well on its way to making a notable bounce-back. Only recently, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond highlighted that Guyana continues to maintain its place in the global spotlight as a prime tourist destination, due to its unique ecotourism product. The minister’s statements followed the publication of an article in the ‘Wanderlust’ travel magazine, which ranked Guyana as one of the top nine sustainable tourism destinations in the world.
STILL A WORLD CHANGER
Minister Walrond said that this “continues to reinforce the point that Guyana is still a world changer.”
The article, titled “9 sustainable experiences in Latin America”, shed some flattering light on the immersive experiences contained in indigenous communities and culture. “Indigenous communities in this South American country have created their own sustainable tourism projects, such as eco lodges and guided tours. These communities’ low-carbon lifestyle, commitment to protecting their ancestral lands and conservation efforts protecting wildlife make Guyana’s tourism one of the greenest on the planet,” the magazine said.
Over the years, Guyana’s sustainable tourism product has been widely recognised. On November 5, 2019, Guyana won the Silver Prize in ‘Best of Adventure’ from the International Travel and Tourism Awards for the sustainable adventure practices framework communities have employed. Earlier, on June 10, 2019, it won the “Best in Sustainable Tourism” award at the Latin America Travel Association (LATA) Achievement Awards in London. It also secured the coveted cover of the June/July 2019 issue of the international Travel Agent Magazine.
Guyana was also named the ‘The World’s #1 in ‘Best of Ecotourism’ and one of the Top 10 Sustainable Destinations at the ITB Berlin – the world’s leading travel and trade show in March 2019.
Nonetheless, a few months after the coronavirus crippled the global tourism industry, GTA embarked on a mission to focus on domestic and diaspora tourism markets. “Right now the domestic and diaspora traveller group is the priority and focus but in order to reach that group, they are interested in very different things than international travellers, so we’re spending a great deal of time in diversifying our existing products to meet their needs,” James said. As a result, several niche areas were identified and are being promoted. As a result, the GTA launched its Moraikobai, Wakapau and Seven Curry day tours, seeking to push unique immersive experiences. James emphasised that actions necessary for tourism recovery include strong Government commitment to the industry; close collaboration between the public and private sectors and general public support; increased marketing and communication efforts; removal of red tapes and improving the enabling environment to support tourism business development; 12 new investments in hotel accommodations; capacity building and training programmes for human resource development; diversification of tourism products; as well as increased airlift from key source markets, especially Europe.