Guyana seeking to adopt new tourism themes as COVID-19 fades

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…pandemic experience constituted a powerful enabler, driver of change – Tourism Minister

Coming out of almost three years of COVID-19, several tourism themes have been explored across the world and Guyana is seeking to capitalise on some of these to redefine and create a solid sector.

World Tourism Day 2022 is observed under the theme “Rethinking Tourism”.

Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister, Oneidge Walrond during her address at an event hosted by the US Ambassador, explained that much of the rethinking is not new, having being considered even before COVID-19 hit.

“The experience of the pandemic was a compelling manifestation of saying ‘seeing is believing’ as we began to see and experience the positive effects of different patterns of human activity. We not only imagined a world where things could be done differently but I think, many people resolved that we should not return to pre-pandemic attitudes.”

“The pandemic experience constituted a powerful enabler and driver of change and it is this driving force that is behind the call for rethinking tourism. Even before the pandemic began, it was appreciated that tourism needed to be rethought and reimagined,” she relayed.

Minister of Tourism Oneidge Walrond

From the rethinking of tourism, the Minister outlined that several themes are emerging and some are relevant to Guyana. Along with demand shaping to have consistent visitors, she said community-based tourism is a good move.

“One of these themes is the move toward demand shaping in order to reduce numbers at a destination at any single point in time…Some may argue that this pertains to destinations where high numbers threaten the destination’s capacity to sustainably deal with them. But even here in Guyana, faced that we are with the capacity constraint, such demand shaping can be useful as we look toward growing our tourism market.”

Economic, social impact

Meanwhile, another major theme is ensuring a wider economic and social impact from tourism.

Walrond identified, “With respect to social and economic development, for us, inclusion means that the services we deliver and the programmes we implement must benefit all Guyanese. This means all Guyanese, regardless of who they are, where they live, ethnic origin, political persuasion or any other characteristic.”

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch focused on modernising the industry, which mostly revolves around enabling online access to products and information, lowering the high prices of excursions, and facilitating easier payment systems.

“Could airlines flying to Kaieteur Falls offer online booking? Could airlines work together to fill planes to ensure individuals or small groups are also able to see the majesty of Kaieteur Falls?  Is there a way for costs to become more affordable to ensure as many Guyanese as possible can enjoy this jaw-dropping and stunning experience?”

She also identified, “How about online booking for restaurants, tourism services and events? Tickets to everything from concerts to – yes – cricket matches – could be offered online. Many tourists note that the only way to book things in Guyana is via WhatsApp, and to find the right WhatsApp is not easy.  Perhaps even ferry slots for cars could be booked in advance, allowing for more reliable transportation and vacation planning,” the diplomat suggested.

Data shows that over 150,000 visitors have been recorded arriving in Guyana in the first half of the year and according to stats from the Ministry of Finance’s Mid-Year Report, over 150,000 more are expected in the second half of 2022