By Ralph Seeram
It was the end of a long sixteen-hour trip to Guyana; the courteous and smiling cabin crew of Caribbean Airlines was bidding us goodbyes as we exited the aircraft. With a heavy backpack and a very heavy carry on suitcase, I tried to negotiate my way down the wet stairs when I spotted a line of orange traffic pylons at the foot of the stairs.
I was mentally trying to figure out if I had to go to the right or left of the pylon to the terminal. My wife who was in front of me made a right.
Wrong move. Out of the shadows of the plane a voice shouted, “Hey guh round deh.” That was, my friends, the Guyanese style of “welcome to Guyana”.
This was no fake welcome by a steelband. This was the real welcome that perhaps is repeated on a daily basis.
Of course you know who will have the brunt of the complaint from the wife. Yours truly. “These people talk to you like pigs” etc etc etc.
First impressions count, not only in love but in tourisms also. Since emphasis is being placed this month on tourism in Guyana, I feel compelled, as a tourist, to share some thought and suggestions.
Now, that ground crew member could have simply said “Miss you are going in the wrong direction” or “Could you kindly go that way to the terminal”.
The first people to greet you off the plane are the airline ground crews. It is obvious that they are not trained to handle passengers in a courteous manner. I must confess that the service at the immigration counter and at Customs has greatly improved over the years, but I think a few phrases like “Welcome to Guyana” “Enjoy your vacation” “Welcome back home” will make someone a little more welcome.
The system at the Customs is very orderly; there is no hassle in retrieving your luggage. It is also a relief to find that you are not being harassed by taxi drivers as was the case years ago.
Tourism dollars are net dollars for the economy; that’s how some Caribbean Islands survive. There is an enormous amount of tourism dollars in the Guyanese Diaspora waiting to be tapped. People are willing to travel if they can be assured that it’s a safe environment.
There is some sort of tour guide company to show them around. I am speaking of children of Guyanese parents born in North America. Most of them have no relatives in Guyana but they yearn to see the land of their forefathers.
The question for the tourist industry in Guyana is, “Are they ready for this challenge?”
Tourism is a service-oriented industry, with emphasis on the word “service”. North Americans, even returning Guyanese like myself, are accustomed to service and demand service for their dollars.
The problem is that Guyanese businesses for the most part are not service-oriented. They have this “take it or leave it attitude”. Whether it is the airport, taxis, hotels or restaurants, employers will have to seriously retrain their employees.
On my last visit to New Amsterdam I decided to take the family out for a dinner. We went to this Chinese restaurant which was beautifully decorated inside. The owner must have spent an enormous amount of money to make the inside authentically Chinese. It had ambience and the place could be compared to some of the best I have seen.
As we seated ourselves, I saw four waitresses huddled in a conversation at the counter. We were seated for over five minutes and no one came to take an order; the place was not even busy.
I enquired if anyone “works here” The waitress approached us with an attitude and rolling eyes. I told her that I was sorry I disturbed her conversation and left. That employer lost $10,000.00 in sales and that untrained waitress lost a $1500 tip. The money I spent at another restaurant. Service counts.
Now to be fair, not all my experiences have been bad. I was treated to lunch by Uncle Adam at the New Thriving Restaurant and found no complaints there.
A few years ago my daughter and I visited Baganara Resort and found the service there to be excellent. As a matter of fact, my daughter said that the resort could be compared to some of the best in Hawaii.
The La Caribe restaurant in New Amsterdam is a great dining place. It was neat and clean, the food was tasty and the service was excellent. That’s the kind of business that would attract a returning customer.
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