[www.inewsguyana.com] – Recognising the role of tourism in the local economy, and the forging of partnerships, was the focus of President Donald Ramotar’s feature address as he spoke to stakeholders at the Tourism Ministry’s Annual Tourism Awards Ceremony on Friday at the Guyana International Conference Centre.
Congratulating Tourism Minister (ag), Irfaan Ali, and his staffers, the president said that more partnerships are needed to bring the Caribbean together, as he cited a Guyana-Barbados partnership for which a Memorandum of Understanding will soon be signed for marketing of both.
“Much more of that is needed in our society and it cannot be driven by Heads of Government meeting, but this is a practical manifestation of what we want to occur in bringing our region closer together”.
The development of information technology and transport will boost the sector as many people already know what Guyana has to offer, President Ramotar said as he described this country’s product as ‘second to none’ that he has seen in his many travels.
He expressed the hope that the partnership will be applied to other Caribbean countries, and eventually other regions.
“I think we have a great future, I’m actually sure that in the whole process that we are making to diversify our economy that tourism has a central role in this regard.”
Minister Ali said there is no doubt that the future of Guyana “depends heavily on a strong, sustainable, well managed tourism sector,” and that “there is no doubt that the government believes that tourism is going to be the center piece for future growth”.
He spoke of the sector’s necessity to Guyana’s development and noted that many of the planned transformational projects will be dependent on it being successful. “It is not an option, it is a necessity. For Marriott to be successful, tourism must work, for the new airport that we are investing in, tourism must work”. This goal will only be a reality if all Guyanese are committed to Guyana, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, he stated. “All I’m asking for, tonight, is for all of us to set our minds as Guyanese, to love Guyana, to promote Guyana, and to push Guyana forward on the international tourism circuit”.
President Donald Ramotar(center) with winners of Tourism Awards and Tourism Ambassadors at the Ministry of Tourism Industry and Commerce’s annual Tourism Awards Ceremony
He opined that tourism has the best potential to bring all Guyanese together. “We brand ourselves as a country with rich diversity, rich food, and diversity. It is time we show the world how unified that diversity is, and how beautiful that diversity is, when it is unified, and the entire world is going to look to us to share the merging of this culture-our greatest asset, our people and the culture we fuse together”.
With 42, 000 jobs created in the sector and its expected growth, more consumption will be necessary, he said. Innovative ways to achieve this are being implemented, he noted. These include educational tourism as is done in other Caribbean nations such as St. Kitts.
The Hospitality Institute, which will follow the Barbados model, and operated to international standards, will also improve and boost the sector, he explained. A partnership with the afore-mentioned country will see both nations partnering to market them as a common destination.
Stakeholders were reminded by the minister that the region is competing with the world and the pooling of talents and resources are necessary as the future calls for collaboration, cooperation and cohesion. Mention was also made of “Home Coming 2015” an initiative which is aiming to have over 200,000 overseas based Guyanese return home for holidays.
Feature guest speaker and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Richard Sealy outlined the gains made in the sector, regionally and internationally, noting that Guyana remains a very active member of the CTO. He said that many nations are investing in the sector which has demonstrated an amazing resilience from economic downturns and cited United Nations World Tourism Organisation figures which show uninterrupted growth, in terms of arrivals, from 1950 with 25 million, to 1.078 billion in 2013. With some US$1.159 billion in revenues made worldwide, stakeholders must be conscious of competition from unexpected sources he added. “It is imperative for us to find workable solutions to sustain us as a region facing serious competition”. Every part of the world is into tourism, even countries that are known for conflict, strife and civil wars are actively engaging in the business.
The Caribbean had just under 21 million visitors between January and August of this year, Sealy explained, and Guyana had a 7.4% increase surpassing the region’s 3% average growth rate. About 30,000 hotel rooms are currently under construction, he added but stakeholders must not become complacent, hence compelling reasons must be made to have persons coming to the region. Local populations must be integrated and feel a passion for the sector, he pointed out as he congratulated the ministry for its initiatives.
Youth must also become more involved in the sector, he further added, particularly those that want a career within. The introduction of tourism studies in the CAPE syllabus was recognition of this, and the move by the ministry to appoint Tourism Ambassadors to tap into the diaspora was a welcome move.
The event saw awards being presented in nine categories:, Pillar of Tourism Industry Award, Teri O’Brien; Tour Guide of the Year- Luke Johnson; Tourism Entrepreneur- Pandama Retreat and Winery/ Warren and Tracy Warren Douglas; Tourism Ambassador- Annette Arjoon-Martins; Most Outstanding Community Tourism Project- Surama Eco-Lodge and Village; Destination Promotion- Office of Climate Change/Philippe J. R Kok; Most Improved Tour Operator- Dagron Tours-Ann Hamilton; Tourism Recognition for Service in Tourism- Knight Rider Bus Service- Salim Twahir; President’s Awards for Investment in Tourism- Alfro Alphonso- 704 Entertainment Complex/Chunilall Baboolall- Aruwai Investments and Brian Tiwarie-BK Group of Companies.
Recognition was also given to former tourism directors, Donald Sinclair and Indira Anandjit. Former Ministers of Tourism were also recognised for their service during their tenure. They were Geoffrey Da Silva, Manzoor Nadir, Manniram Prashad, with a Posthumous Award for the late Michael Shree Chand.
Recognising the continued efforts and the roles played by outstanding Guyanese at being tourism ambassadors, the Tourism Ministry also launched the Ambassador Programme. The initial Tourism Ambassadors are Andrew King, Dave Martins, Nicolette Fernandes, Clive Lloyd, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Hugh Ross and Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira.
A tourism workshop and job fair taking the form of three workshop sessions featuring success stories by prominent business people within the sector and table top exhibitions, by organisations and businesses, will be held at the Guyana International Conference Centre on November 24, 2014. Taxi Services Training is scheduled for the same day and will target the drivers and dispatchers of taxi services in Georgetown. Some elements of the training include customer service, complaints and basic hygiene practices among others. [Extracted and modified from GINA]