[www.inewsguyana.com] – The tourism sector is being prepared to take advantage of its potential as a substantial earner of foreign exchange, Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes told the National Assembly last evening during the second sitting of the 11th Parliament as she delivered government’s vision for the sector.
According to a GINA report, Minister Hughes pointed out that the sector’s contribution to Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been valued at between US$64M to $220M annually or up to 8.8%. She recalled that the World Travel and Tourism Council in 2013 reported that the direct effects of traveller tourism locally amounted to some $16Billion or US$87.9M with a wider effect of $44 Billion or 8.9% of the GDP.
These figures demonstrate the capacity of the sector to provide much needed secure jobs to the nation’s unemployed young people, which “with the requisite training is not an illusion”.
National Tourism Policy
The aforementioned, the minister said will only be possible with a strong policy framework and as such a National Tourism Policy is already being formulated. This policy, she added, will identify niche markets, and areas of strategic advantage such as the exotic local bio-diversity, flora, fauna, pristine rainforest, and vast rivers with exciting potential for water sports, and waterfalls.
For this to be realised, the minister stated that an international marketing plan must be implemented to spread, “the existence of Destination Guyana and what she has to offer”. This ground work has already begun, the minister revealed, with the rebranding of Guyana as “South America Undiscovered”.
She expressed the hope that funding will be approved for this marketing programme.
The ministry has on its agenda, the re-examination of current fiscal incentives granted to those within the sector. The previous uneven allocations will be changed, and a level playing field created.
With 70% of the local tourism sector being owned and operated by locals, Minister Hughes said that most of what is earned circulates and remains in the country.
She cited tax incentives as one method of giving the sector the boost that it needs. This is what pertains in several Caricom states, the minister explained.
“In the Bahamas for example, the standard VAT rate is 15%, but for their tourism sector it is 10%. In Barbados, the rate is 17.5% but a concessionary rate of 7.5% is applied to the tourism industry… I hope this will be seriously considered in the upcoming 2015 budget”.
The board of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), with a range of stakeholders will be re-established and will comprise representatives such as those from Region Nine’s accolade winning community-based tourism providers, she added.
The Guyana Hospitality Institute in association with the Education Ministry and the Carnegie School of Home Economics, which will be improved, was fully committed to by the minister.
With 205,000 visitors annually, the ministry is desirous of expanding this number, but this is difficult given the propensity of the local media to focus on crime. A better balance from the media with a focus also on the, “feel good success stories” would be welcomed, she stressed. With the assistance of the security sector, the perception of Guyana as a violent country can be improved, she added.
Expanded airlift capacity is also needed and more Guyanese must be able to enjoy the local tourism sector, the minister stressed. She thanked all those who have also stayed the course along with those who have contributed to the massive clean-up efforts underway in Georgetown and the country.
In closing Minister Hughes stated, “There is much more to be done. As one people, under one nation with one destiny, I say let’s get together and brighter days are indeed ahead.”