Much work is required to present Guyana as an overall attractive tourism product
I have just returned from a short holiday in Guyana – after 11 years – and had a very enjoyable time, getting together with friends of old. In fact, in the departure lounge at the CJI airport, I was reunited with a colleague and friend I had not seen for 60 years.
The friendly lady smiled at me and pointed out a comfortable wide, curved-upwards seat. We started to chat and she mentioned where she had spent her holiday. I said that I once knew a family from that area and mentioned their surname.
Imagine my surprise and joy when she identified her maiden name and I found that I was actually speaking to my friend – neither of us had recognised the other! We were like children all over again. The world is round – keep on walking and one day we might all meet again.
My holiday was an eye-opener. Georgetown, our once pretty city, seemed ‘overgrown’ with general rubbish and building rubble. It is difficult to envisage a reversal of environmental conditions – it seems to be taken for granted that empty spaces need clutter. The neat, prim houses, occupied by proud owners, are now dwarfed by unsightly concrete structures – architectural nightmares.
Much has been said about encouraging tourism; but to attract tourists, the infrastructure and conditions have to be ‘right’, the product must be attractively packaged and presented. Instantly springing to mind is the pricing policy. Hotels need to be more flexible about currency choices.
As with the departure tax (incidentally the highest I have come across so far), one should be allowed to pay in Sterling, US dollars or Guyana dollars; also in Euros. Confining payment to US dollars, if resident in the UK or Europe, is not the most convenient route for Europeans to take.
Local phone calls lasting less than, say, 15 minutes should be free, as part of hospitality. Years ago I stayed at a guesthouse with several young volunteers from overseas, working in various disciplines.
As a matter of routine, after a busy day’s work, they looked forward to their ‘dial-up-and deliver’ pizzas and at weekends for a taxi to take them around.
Could the tourist industry imagine the strain on these youngsters’ pockets if they were charged by the minute for ordering a meal or taking a trip along the coast? Fortunately, these calls were all ‘on the house’ – probably built into the rates per night.
Then we have the vexing matter of 16 percent VAT on food items, whether cooked and consumed on the premises or bought to be consumed later and, most appalling of all, on bottled water and sodas, very essential to a non-tropical person when in the tropics. In fact, we were warned, in hot Israel, to always carry drinking water to sip, to prevent dehydration.
The present level of VAT on food items is wicked. If food MUST be taxed, make it less, say, one or two per cent. Here are some samples of food I bought mainly from the same Water Street store:
A. Two take-away cooked snacks – $254.30 + VAT $40.69 – Total $294.99;
B. Two take-away cooked snacks and a bottle of cola = $396.54, VAT $63.45 – Total $459.99;
C. one bottle drinking water take-away $189.66 + VAT $30.35 – Total = $220.01;
D. 1 bottle water + 2 soda drinks take-away $426.86 + VAT $68.14 – Total $494; l bottle cola, 20 ozs., $155.17 + VAT $24.83, total = $180.00.
One store had the nerve to invite us to ‘Have a nice day’!
To a ‘seasoned’ tourist, VAT – especially such a high rate – on food and soft drinks would be very strange and perhaps off-putting. Personally, in all my distance travel, in over 30 years, I have never come across anything like it. For what it is worth, here is ‘pull’ from a UK Vat Guidance page: “If you have to pay VAT on something, it will normally be included in the price you see. … Food and drink for human consumption is, in general, zero-rated but many items are standard-rated, including alcoholic drinks, confectionery, crisps and savoury snacks, supplies of food made in the course of catering including hot takeaways, ice cream, soft drinks and mineral water. Because certain food and drink is zero-rated, so too are certain animals and animal feeds, and plants and seeds – if the animal or plant in question produces food that is normally used for human consumption. Many regular purchases such as food and children’s clothing are zero-rated. …”
A city break in Georgetown for many – what with the dust – unsightly rubbish, crowds in narrow spaces plus high food prices would be a no-no.
However, the Guyanese people, on the whole, are cheerful and helpful, so all is not lost. I was fortunate to meet some wonderful people, and made the most of my first holiday in three years.
Much work is required to present Guyana as an overall attractive tourism product. I hope your enterprise will thrive.