[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Government’s sharp approach in developing Guyana as a must-see tourist destination has attracted the attention of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), which is now seeking to assist with implementing some of the priority actions for the sector.
Secretary General of the CTO, Hugh Riley, who is currently in Guyana, will be meeting with Minister of Tourism, Cathy Hughes, to discuss ways to advance cooperation and mutual interests.
“We have come to understand that the Minster has a sharp focus on what Guyana’s tourism development should look like, we need to understand that as the CTO, we feel we have the skills and tools to help to deliver what Guyana’s national tourism priorities are, and ensuring that local communities benefit is a key part of the sustainable aspect of tourism,” Riley said.
He further explained that, the CTO is extremely happy that Guyana has taken the lead in the area of sustainable tourism development at the community level.
“We feel that the CTO can assist in helping local communities to understand the value that tourism brings to their lives and in helping all stakeholders involved, to understand how to further develop those communities,” Riley said.
Minister Hughes explained that the visit of the Secretary General is timely and historic, since it occurs at a time when there is a fresh approach to the way Government business is being done.
The Minister also reported that the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and the Ministry of Tourism have received a 25 percent increase in their budgetary allocations.
“I will be meeting with the private sector and especially the membership of THAG (Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana) to explain how that budgetary allocation will unfold, and what we plan to do with it. Your input is very very important to our decision making process”, she said.
The Minister has indicated that it is the intention of her Ministry to work closely with the CTO and will be discussing with the team the focus of Guyana’s Tourism Policy and targeted niche markets.
“We look forward to the partnership and collaboration and to fruitful discussions tomorrow, to advance the tourism agenda and to discuss areas of mutual benefit for Guyana and tourism in general, because I think that our existing relationship is one we can build on and we can learn from them, they can support us in marketing Guyana” she said.
Minister Hughes advised that community-based tourism is an area receiving significant focus by her Ministry as this is seen as a way of improving the lives of the people in those communities, while at the same time showcasing their culture, hospitality and way of life.
“Community-based tourism is an area of tourism where we want to build, because we feel strongly that people in the rest of the world are interested in. This is the time where we want to come to and see communities … how they live, what their culture is, so in the whole community-based tourism model, we feel that is one we can duplicate and build on in the regions, and that is key in creating employment within the regions too,” Minister Hughes said.
To this end, the Minister advised that the Ministry is collaborating with the regional administration, to identify and develop an inventory of tourism products.
“We have started getting the regions themselves to identify those tourism prospects, so next week in Region Eight, we have a team of 20 individuals who are going to IWOKRAMA to receive training, these are people already in tourism-related organisations support services, but we want to take them to the level where they can expand their businesses,” Hughes said.
According to the minister, this is done against the backdrop of the vision of creating another industry to support the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in addition to the traditional contributors, rice, sugar and mining.
The Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world and it attracts approximately 25-26 million visitors annually. Last year US$2B was spent in the Caribbean region.
The CTO, established since 1989, has been at the forefront of promoting and positioning the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination, and a leading sustainable tourism destination as one sea, one voice, one Caribbean.
Guyana has been a member of the CTO since 1992, and has benefited from a range of programmes, events, conferences, initiatives, and advocacy efforts in advancing its tourism sector. [Extracted and modified from GINA]