By Zena Henry
Tourism Minister, Irfaan Ali, is satisfied that the country’s public partnership with private investors is working nicely in the advancement of the local tourism sector. This advancement, he noted, includes the development of the country’s aviation sector and improves the nation’s ability to sell itself as a tourist destination and therefore attract targeted markets.
Delivering his address at a special function at the Ogle International Airport last week, Ali was adamant that the local tourism sector was looking good as a result of the collaborative efforts of the government and private investors who continue to show confidence in the country’s economy.
He told a gathering of government officials, including Head of State Donald Ramotar, international representatives and aviation stakeholders, that having a good vision is the key to developing any sector or business. As one of the government’s visions for developing the tourist sector, he urged that the task was to work with private investors to develop the Ogle International Airport Inc. (OAI); the country’s largest domestic airfield.
“The vision of the government to work with the private sector to develop this regional airport as a hub has shown its fruits,” the Minister said. “Many times people forget the public aspect of public-private partnership, if the public-private partnership goes wrong, then the public aspect is remembered. When it bears fruit and comes out perfect, we forget the public aspect and only refer to private aspects of development.”
But this investment to develop the domestic airfield was part of government’s long term vision to ensure the sustainable development of the tourism sector; which is making waves today. The Minister addressed the issue of marketing and investing more resources in the sector, since it is an area that many stakeholders believe, could receive additional investment.
Minister Ali urged that given Guyana’s diversified market, tourist ports such as Barbados and Jamaica could not be compared to Guyana’s economy which caters for a thriving mining sector, hinterland development, forestry, and many other societal areas.
“Marketing is essential in the tourism sector and is the responsibility of public and private partners. Indeed we need to spend as much as possible in marketing, but to compare Jamaica and Barbados and their marketing budget with ours is unreasonable,” the Minister opined.
“Barbados and Jamaica do not have a diversified economy like ours. We have to spend on hinterland development, in the agriculture sector, mining, forestry and others which form the core of Guyana’s economy. The context in which Guyana analyses things must be wider than the narrow ideas.”
The Minister pointed out that the country has a specific experience to offer, and therefore attracts a specific market. He noted that government must spend in a smart way.
“Our market is eco-tourism and it is a market to attract a different crowd.”
Ali related that Guyana has had an eight-page spread in Fortune 500. This year, the BBC featured Guyana as one of 50 destinations that must be visited in a lifetime and there was an entire season of ‘Gold Rush’ on the Discovery Channel which showed on American television as 2013’s number one Friday night programme. Later this month, two episodes of an upcoming television series ‘Naked and Afraid’, will be filmed here.
Minister Ali said that documentaries, shown on the History and Discovery Channel, are the types of marketing partnerships that will ensure the type of tourism Guyana offers. In this way, the market being targeted will be met.
“While we recognize resources must be used in a smart way, a specific market is being targeted and that’s where resources go.”
Additionally, to encourage further investment, specifically in the aviation sector, there are no charges of duty and taxes, e.g. on the importation of new airplanes and aviation fuel does not attract any tariff.
“We do have a very welcoming investment framework for the aviation sector.”
Ali reiterated that much more has to be done for the tourist sector, but with financial constraints as a consequence, decisions have to be made on financial and economic evaluations.
Within the last three years, Guyana has opened 300 new hotel rooms and this is outside of the under-construction Marriott Hotel and the still to come Sun, Sand and Sea Hotel.
The issue of marketing is driven by hotel chains. In many small islands, chains such as Marriott and Hyatt drive the market based on packages such as Marriott vacations, COPA vacations etc. and “that is why it is very important to have brand name hotels like the Marriott in Guyana. It helps us in the marketing drive, and brings a different dimension to the marketing aspect of tourism.”
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