Guyana’s Tourism Sector makes commendable advancements in under 10 months

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As Government continues to roll out its five-year plan for the overhaul of the tourism sector, it is important to note that the relatively young industry has made some achievements in the first half of the year, especially as it relates to attracting more visitors to Guyana.

According to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, Guyana welcomed a total of 108,183 visitors in the first half of the year.

The economist said that this is approximately 14,694 or 15.7 percent more than in 2015 and 17,396 or 19.2 percent more than 2014 for the same period. The Finance Minister noted that visitors’ arrival peaked during the month of May last with arrivals totalling 24,987 persons. This can be attributed to the heightened celebrations of Guyana’s Golden Jubilee.

This celebration period, according to the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), was accompanied by an average hotel occupancy rate of 75 percent compared to 39 percent for the same period in 2015, with 95 percent in Georgetown and 55 percent in outlying areas.

The Finance Minister said that a total of 91 rooms were added to the stock of rooms available as at June 2016, which resulted in the expansion of the capacity of the tourism sector: Palm Springs, 22 rooms; Tower Suites, 29 new rooms; and Beachview Hotel, 40 rooms.

In addition to this, Jordan said that efforts were made to re-establish the national Bed and Breakfast Programme within the local accommodation sector. To this end, he expressed that inspection and registration of bed and breakfast facilities have been completed.

During this period, the Finance Minister revealed that Guyana also welcomed the arrival a new airline which began operations quite soon.

Additionally, in an effort to establish a more comprehensive data to analyse the contribution of the tourism sector to national development, the Finance Minister said that a Tourism Satellite Accounting (TSA) workshop was hosted by specialists from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to educate tourism stakeholders on the importance of having TSA in Guyana. Subsequently, he said that research on the data requirements for the 10 TSA tables was conducted by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and the Bureau of Statistics (BOS).

The Finance Minister said that the findings for each table were compiled and are expected to be presented to the agencies involved during the third quarter of the year.

With the aforementioned in mind, it is clear that tourism remains one of the sectors in which Guyana has a strong comparative advantage in truly making a turn around in this sector for the better.

In fact, Tourism Minister , Cathy Hughes noted earlier this year that customer segmentation is a new initiative that will be , and is already undertaken to transform the sector. She emphasized that it is fundamental to her Ministry’s global marketing and sales success.

Hughes said, “These rich consumer insights will enable us to clearly define our best-prospect travelers, as well as the relevant communication channels, messages and experiences that motivate them to travel. It will also help to develop marketing strategies and tactics that more effectively connect the consumer with Guyana’s tourism brand in meaningful ways, leading to increased customer acquisition and retention.”

The Tourism Minister said that her Ministry has already engaged Trip Advisor—a global marketing communication platform—in an effort to conduct targeted marketing to key generating and emerging geographic markets. These she said include; USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Holland and South America.

Hughes said that it is one of the assets that is used in the tourism market to create and enhance favourable perceptions of Guyana by delivering value propositions and unique selling points to targeted customer segments.

She said that there are several expected outcomes of the Global Marketing Communications platform.  These include; improved brand relevance among target travelers in primary, secondary and emerging markets, making Guyana a more compelling destination; and improved campaign impact and influence, moving the traveller further down the path to purchase.

The politician stated, too, that for 2016, her Ministry is slated to recruit two overseas representation companies in the US and UK/European markets to assist with key trade and consumer shows, organise trade and media trips, conduct trade and sales outreach, business to business meetings, social media marketing and generate features and stories of Guyana in various publications.

Hughes also revealed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Guyana and the Barbados Joint Commission (Travel and Tourism). She said that this will allow for improved inter-agency relations with regards to information sharing, strengthened bilateral relations, creation of opportunities for multi-destination packaging, capacity building (public/private sector), formulation of mutually beneficial links among operators in both countries, and joint marketing efforts, among other things.

She said that several hotels and the Carnegie School of Home Economics benefitted from hotel and hospitality training at the reputable Crane Hotel in Barbados last year.

The politician asserted that at the end of the day, “this multi-destination marketing approach will bring tourists from the UK, where Barbados’ airlift has a huge advantage to enjoy the tranquillity of Barbados, and then the adventure and magnificence that is Guyana”.

Hughes said that her Ministry has intensified its drive to raise Guyana’s profile as a Film and Documentary Destination, and has succeeded in enhancing destination awareness through the facilitation of numerous projects with international film crews.

She noted that several film projects are in the pipeline.

The Tourism Minister said, “The cornerstone of Tourism is our Hinterland Tourism Development Plan which recognises that in nearly all of our 10 regions we are blessed with great tourism product, and it is up to us to encourage communities and Guyanese to get into income-generating projects in the tourism sector.”

Hughes said that with this thrust, efforts will be directed to developing local entrepreneurial opportunities through a viable initiative that will be replicated in many parts of the hinterland communities.

“Even though the country’s most popular tourism destination, the majestic Kaieteur Falls, is located in region eight, the sad reality is that none of the other 17 communities in that region were exposed to much less benefitting from tourism, despite some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country being located in their backyards,” Hughes asserted.

The Minister said that the Region Eight Development Initiative was conceptualised to make a start to effect change in this regard. She said that an inventory of the communities was done and those with the most tourism potential and basic infrastructure to make a start were identified as Kato, Monkey Mountain and Paramakatoi.

She said that the Government has a strong commitment to seeing tourism expand in the hinterland. It is for this very reason, Hughes emphasised, that over $4 billion has been allocated this year in support of the Plan of Action for Hinterland Development.

The Minister said that in excess of $280 million has been allocated to promote economic prosperity, tourism development and preserving cultural identity. This sum is inclusive of grants for 211 Indigenous communities that will build village economies and fund eco-tourism projects.

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