THE PRESIDENT’S MEETING
The recent meeting between the President and a number of persons within the music industry has both positive and negative dimensions, and this column seeks to analyze that meeting and suggest ways and means in which the negatives can be overcome and the positive built upon.
First of all, it is necessary to congratulate the President on this initiative. When mention is made of the music industry and the tourism industry, there is often a tendency to treat both as separate and distinct. However, as the President himself observed to the gathering, the music industry in Guyana, which comprises both artistes as well as promoters, can play a role in marketing Guyana’s tourism product.
More importantly also, the point was reiterated that when persons come to Guyana they need to have activities to entertain and otherwise occupy their time. Gone are the days when persons are going to be content with simply spending two to three weeks in Guyana relaxing at home with their family members.
Non-resident Guyanese, which comprises a significant segment of overall arrivals are now on average spending less time than before in Guyana. More importantly, there is a great deal which these visitors wish to do in the shorter time they are spending.
There is not much to see in Guyana in two weeks. After you would have visited in resorts and the waterfalls, there is not much else to see. All the major landmarks in the capital for example can be seen in one day and outside of the capital there is not much that can occupy the rest of your time.
At the same time cultural tourism is filling an important void and more and more visitors are keen to sample our music. And this is where concerts and plays and other cultural productions come in. These sorts of productions can serve to entertain our visitors and make them have a good time so much so that they may encourage other Guyanese to come to Guyana.
The President’s appeal therefore to the promoters and artistes is a welcome initiative. Reports indicated that the President identified three periods which can be used to put on a range of productions geared towards attracting and entertaining tourists to Guyana.
What is interesting about the three periods identified is that each has its own distinct character and thus makes it easier to tailor productions to suit each individual season.
The first of these seasons was Mashramani. This is a time of great bacchanal in Guyana. During this period we have a number of musical shows and competitions, which should now be adapted so that they can form part of the tourism package. We have for example the Soca Monarch competition and the Calypso competition. Mash day activities, which though not up to any exceptional standards, can be developed to become part of the entertainment for the Mashramani period.
For the musicians this is already a busy period and it may be asking too much of them to extend themselves to put on additional shows. What should be considered is making the existing shows more elaborate and attractive to tourists and this should include all the events that are usually launched for Mashramani.
The second period identified is the August holidays. The emphasis here should be on more family and sporting programs since this is period when many in the Caribbean, come to Guyana. The promoters and musicians may not be required here as much as they would in the Mashramani period. Also, many of them may not be available since they would be on tour.
The President should therefore canvass the sporting associations to encourage them to provide sporting camps for children and of course sporting festivals and competitions for adults. An attempt should also be made to encourage more plays and theatrical productions during this period, avoiding some of the popular theater, which has become so dominant now in Guyana.
The final period coincides with Guyana’s peak tourist season, which is the Christmas holidays and here of course the attention has to shift indoors because of the wet weather at this time. Here however, the musicians can play a role in organizing a variety of concerts suited to different audiences. Top international artistes can be invited to be part of the entertainment but there should also be some different activities, which can help to emphasize the Guyanese side to Christmas, a side that many in the Diaspora long for.
Now that the President has met with the promoters and musicians, it is important that the groundwork already built be enhanced. It is necessary that there be collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; and the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce to develop a plan for this August vacation and for the forthcoming Christmas Season.