It is regrettable that the President of Guyana should have made those remarks at his last press conference about the Pegasus Hotel.
While it is not the first time that the President has commented on the standards at the Pegasus and while he is free to hold his opinion, he ought to know that his remarks are going to hurt the business of that hotel, and by extension, tourism in Guyana.
Until the new Marriott Hotel is built, the two main hotels in Guyana are going to be the Princess and the Pegasus.
The latter had for years been the country’s top hotel and it was here that many dignitaries, including the Queen, stayed. It is here also that a number of international conferences, as well as conferences and meetings hosted by the government are held.
The Pegasus also offers the best weekend entertainment in Guyana and it is patronized by the crème of Guyanese society as well as a number of top government officials.
When a business executive or government official or a diplomat has to come to Guyana, they would usually research the accommodation that is available. They may go online and see what is said about the hotels.
When they Google the Pegasus they may well encounter reports about what the President said about one of the top hotels in Guyana.
They will see words such as crappy. Now when a business executive sees such a description about a hotel in which he plans to stay, and when he sees that this description came from the top political official in the country, that executive is going to have second thoughts about staying at that hotel.
The executive will then think to himself or herself that if one of the top hotels in the country can be so described what is there about the country itself. Why bother to come and do business with Guyana. This is how the statement made by the Head of State can hurt tourism and hurt the economy of Guyana. And this is why it is regrettable.
Guyana does not have many top class hotels. The few that we have are not doing well with occupancy.
The Pegasus it is claimed is having what can be viewed as fair occupancy. These hotels therefore need all the support they can get if they are to survive in an economy that is not pulling a great deal of tourists.
Therefore, instead of government officials making negative comments about the standards of our hotels, they should be thinking of how they can work with these hotels to improve both standards and occupancy.
The government is shooting itself in the feet when on the one hand it says that it needs better hotels to boost tourism while at the same time making terrible criticisms about one of the top hotels in Guyana.
The Guyana Tourism Association needs to say something about this matter because it can also defeat their efforts at promoting tourism in Guyana.
The private sector should come onboard and seek to bring an end to the unhealthy exchanges that are taking place. The private sector has publicly said that it supports the construction of a new hotel in Guyana which is to be branded by the Marriott Group.
But the same private sector should also be vociferous about the need to ensure that any new hotel is not built at the expense of those which presently exist, especially if the new hotel is going to be a public sector partnership.
There are genuine concerns about the viability of any new hotel. The investors are the ones taking the risk and if they see potential in building a hotel, they should be encouraged.
The problem is that there is a widespread view that Guyana does not have the sort of visitor arrivals to justify such an investment and there is therefore the fear that this new hotel is going to be propped up with taxpayers’ dollars.
The double talk about firstly the government acting as a catalyst and then that the government “may” invest is not helpful to providing the comfort needed to some of the existing players in the hospitality sector.
Competition is good and no one should fear competition. But competition needs to be fair. It would not be fair to the existing hotels if they see a new hotel which is heavily supported by the government and whose existence they feel will force them out of business. In short, it is felt in some quarters that this is not an issue of competition.
There is simply not the large enough market for competition. So it is felt in some quarters.
This too should concern the private sector, because if there is not a large enough market to make a new hotel viable, then why is this new hotel being constructed?
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