Published On: Tue, Jan 8th, 2013

Guyana unveils new strategies to boost tourism sector

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Tourism as a sector has evolved over the years, aided by heightened interest and significant sums of money, as focus continues to propel Guyana with its vast, viable and unique eco-tourism potential into the international spotlight.

Acting Minister of Tourism Irfaan Ali last week outlined several plans aimed at boosting tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy within the first quarter of this year.

Marketing and PR
Several organisations have indicated their interest to feature Guyana in their films and written publications in 2013 as it is an important aspect of the tourism focus of ensuring that the Guyana brand gets out to the wider market, travelling market and to the most influential market potentials.

“One of our strategies is to target films, documentaries and travel writers and have them come into Guyana to do a lot of PR (public relations) work for us.”

In the first quarter, the minister is hoping that Adventure Life which has a very expansive viewership visit Guyana. He also named Discovery channel and Raw TV coming as well, both of which had visited before. “Discovery channel and Raw TV are looking to do a second edition of Gold Rush in the Jungle in Guyana and that again will give us a lot of publicity”. Gold Rush is one of the most watched Friday night programmes reaching more than four million households.

Added to these interests, the History channel and the BBC would like to return to produce a number of features on Guyana. The BBC rated Guyana as one of the 60 destinations that must be visited.

Discussions have also begun with tourism sectors within the Caribbean Region to develop what is called a “joint marketing packaging” plan. Ali said that he has had talks with Grenada and Barbados. “We are seeing now a greater blend of travellers… The Caribbean itself loses a lot because of the attentiveness of the sun, sand and sea tourism. So, we are trying to offer our eco, adventure and nature based product as part of that package so that as a region we can target a larger group.”

Recording Tourist Arrivals

During the course of this year, the Ministry and the GTA will continue to use the best technology to record and analyse tourist arrivals. Previously the authorities only recorded arrivals at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). This year, however, arrivals at Lethem, Corentyne and Ogle would be recorded.

“These three areas are not included in the arrival figures but it is very important that we capture that figure because a large percentage of those arrivals utilise our local services,” Ali said.

Mashramani

Also included in the first quarter plans is the annual celebration of Mashramani in February. The Ministry will be launching a visitors’ plan, targeting strategically Brazil. The Ministry is hoping that a band of 30 persons dedicated to Carnival carousing will come to Guyana. If the Brazilian band visits then tourist arrivals from that country are expected to be at approximately 400.

“We are already working with tour companies in the State of Roraima to promote and sell packages.” The Ministry also has interests in Suriname as well as it has a very popular band called “Uptake”. Should this delegation come to Guyana it is estimated that an additional 50 to 100 tourists will come with them. “We already have tour operators working in Suriname in making this possible.”

The Minister added that there has been some interest from Trinidad as well.

A street fair will be held on Brickdam the night before Mash to start-off the celebrations.

Stimulating new investments
The ministry hopes to initiate discussions with WestJet, Air Canada, and JetBlue air carriers to stimulate and motivate interests in investing in the Guyana.

Meanwhile, the ministry has had a number of major new investments approved during the later portion of 2012 which will definitely embellish existing services to meet certain international expectations. Collectively the 14 new investment interests that include establishment of hotels and entertainment complexes have a value of more than $25B and are from local businesses. These new investments will create employment for more than 800 persons.

Improving Services

Considerable emphasis will be placed on regularising the service providers in this sector, continuing what the ministry began in 2012. A special committee of both public and private sector representatives was formed to specifically consult service providers towards establishing standards. The ministry is determined to ensure that the service quality is improved across the board. “We have 199 operators, guides, and properties registered so far, 87 hotels, 64 tour guides, 30 tour operators and 18 lodges and resorts. Our intentions are to ensure that these facilities would be held to certain standards and to have some waiting systems implementing sometime this year.”

Re-Discover Home
Last year provided an excellent platform to propel the tourism sector and this has formed the base for its expansion in 2013.

“In 2012 we campaigned under the slogan “Re-Discover Home” and because of the success of that campaign we will continue on that path. Last year’s theme will be retained but with an addendum. Thus, in 2013 tourism activities will be held under the theme “Re-Discover Home; celebrate your Life, celebrate your Home,” Minister Ali stated.

Re-discover Home is such a successful model that even Trinidad has started advertising extensively to their market.

Ali added that the ministry plans to capitalise on this market because it has tremendous potential, especially around the Mashramani period in February.

Reflecting on 2012, Ali noted that there was an average of 17.2 percent increase in arrivals over that of the previous year. “At the end of November our arrivals was sitting around 161,000 compared to 137,000 around the same period in 2011.” He posited that this increase came at a time when there were tremendous difficulties in the aviation capacity. Early in 2012 saw the exit of RedJet and by the end of the third quarter that of EZJet.

The minister stated that, “our objective this year is to sustain arrivals, ensure that occupancy in the hotels grow and create local demand for art craft and food.”

Training

The ministry will continue other training programmes and expand existing ones to include tutoring tourism staff, immigration and customs officers to speak the Portuguese and Spanish in an effort to bridge the current communication barrier.

City and its environs
While in 2013 investments in the sector will soar, the minister mentioned that it is hoped that the private sector also invests in keeping the city clean. He said that through the urban development plan it is hoped that the private sector will adopt sections of the city. Steps will be taken to work along with the management of the city to clean the garbage.

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