Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce (ag) Irfaan Ali formally launched Tourism Awareness Month 2013 under the theme ‘Communication and Information sharing for Tourism Development’ this evening with a call for a shift in the thinking of all Guyanese with regards to the sector, even as he outlined some major undertakings that would help raise the profile of local tourism.
The sector currently generates billions of dollars whilst providing jobs for approximately 10,000 people, but the quality of what is offered locally needs to be improved if it is to achieve greater heights according to the Minister.
The minister who described the formal launch of the month at the Guyana International Conference Centre, a ‘bitter sweet’ occasion, said the most recent figures from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) praised Guyana for its progress, and cited an increase of 13.5% in visitors. He acknowledged that much more needs to be done, and outlined several of the challenges facing the sector and said that while Guyanese can celebrate their country’s tourism product, “We have to be clear about what we are offering especially in the eco-tourism sector.”
Citing the efforts and marketing of honey produced by the single parent women’s group attached to the Mangrove Project at Cove and John on the East Coast of Demerara, the minister said that it was an example of what was possible locally.
“Human, cultural and service changes are needed to complement the infrastructural changes occurring,” he urged. Once this is done, the tourism sector could actually become a major livelihood option for many Guyanese. “All of us must respond to the problems not hide from them,” Minister Ali stated.
The efforts of Dr. Bobby Ramroop to buy the Amazon Warriors team and sponsor the Guyana leg of the recently held Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Cricket tournament were lauded as an example of what could be achieved with forward thinking, and good business acumen, noted the minister. He said that as a result, the Limacol brand’s awareness has now been increased and businesses in India and other Asian countries are now interested in what Guyana has to offer, not only in goods and services, but in tourism.
A call for the media to be more nationalistic and patriotic was also made Minister Ali. He acknowledged that while every country has issues, their media recognise the need to sell their individual country and what they have to offer. He chided some sections of the local media for their sensationalist front pages whilst other countries which are affected by worse crimes desist from doing the same.
Touching on the hospitality aspect, he noted that the Marriot Hotel’s construction and the Cheddi Jagan Airport Expansion project, are “absolutely essential” to offering better services and increasing Guyana’s visibility in overseas markets. The country’s diplomatic partners also can play a role in increasing Guyana’s outlook abroad, said the minister. (GINA)