By Franklin Wilson
History was created yesterday in the Savannah Suite of the Pegasus Hotel when for the first
time ever, stakeholders in and out of the sports arena huddled together to initiate discussions and possibilities on “Improving Sports through Tourism; growing Tourism through Sports”, the theme for the one day seminar / workshop.
The keynote speaker during the opening session was Sports Consultant Joseph ‘Reds’ Pereira who for five years worked as the St. Lucia Tourist Board and someone who started sports tourism in that island.
Other speakers during yesterday’s opening session, which was chaired by Guyanese icon Mr. Dave Martins of the Tradewinds fame, were Mr. Vincent Alexander, Technical Facilitator to the Ministry of Education and Mr. Christopher Jones, Director of Sports.
Pereira, a former international commentator and National football coach, in his opening told the participants, which included federation and association Presidents that the rest of the Caribbean is involved in an ongoing sports tourism programme, noting that it’s not a negative for Guyana but we can turn it into a positive by joining the family of Caribbean nations that are ahead of us.
Reminding that there is no quick fix in crafting and implementing Sports Tourism, Pereira noted that there is need for all the relevant partners/stakeholders to gel together and push in the same direction.
”A number of organisations have got to be involved, it’s not just the director of tourism and the tourism department; its component of the associations themselves because it’s the x association and the y association which has got to play that role.”
Other components that are vital to sports tourism being successful Pereira informed, is the private sector, advising that later on in this process there needs to be an interaction between the organiser of yesterday’s event and the private sector.
”It is private sector money that can help with the associations which have got something feasible and can work. There’s no point trying for something that you don’t have linkage to, so we have the associations, we have the private sector; we must involve the various ministries and ministry of sports.”
He also noted that adequate infrastructure is needed throughout the country as is will drive the tourism policy.
“If you don’t have the infrastructure you can’t move. Infrastructure of course, is part of developing Guyana, it has to wait its turn I suppose as the politicians would say because there is education, there’s agriculture, there’s roads, there’s schools, there’s all sorts of things. So I’d like to feel that sports is very important, it should have priority but just can’t have priority.
The full partnership of the media in any sports tourism set up I also vital he said.
”We got to be all involved as Martin Carter once wrote. I’m begging the press, I’m pleading with the press that it’s not all about trophies and cheques being handed over and A beat B and B beats C, it’s about the work that’s being done in terms of development.”
Alexander in his remarks noted that the stakeholder collaboration is important as is standard facilities and the relevant accommodation. He also emphasised that good governance, if absent can very well stymie development.
Jones in his words of welcome said that the gathering has sent a signal that sports has been placed on the front burner of the nation’s developmental agenda and says to the world that Guyana’s disposition with regards to sports has changed.
”We shall soon see Guyanese athletes revered and heralded as some of the greats in the world. This working group session provides each of us with the opportunity to learn from each other and to meaningfully contribute to the discussion on improving Sports Tourism. As Sports Tourism is an industry that is said to be one of the fastest growing sectors within Tourism according to the World Tourism Organisation. It is important that the economic impact of this Sector is recognised.”
During the other sessions a number of pertinent areas were looked at by selected presenters that included Ms. Tricia Fiedtkou of the GOA who dealt with A Sports Perspective; Mr. Ronaldo Vieira of the Brazilian Embassy who looked at the Brazil Experience and Ms. Camille Boodhoo of the Tourism and Hospitality Association who focused on An Industry Perspective.
There were also three works groups involving the participants which looked at the following topics: a) What are the Best practices for marketing and promoting a Sports event? B) What should be the SOPs for hosting visiting teams? C) What should be the role of tourism entities in the planning of Sports Tourism events? D) What are the main obstacles and challenges to holding a successful Sports Tourism event in Guyana? E) Are Immigration, Customs, Police and Health services important in Sports Tourism?
The event was a collaborative effort between the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Business, the National Sports Commission in the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport and the Guyana Tourism Authority.
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