COVID-19: Tourism sector loses $32 billion in revenue so far

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By Isanella Patoir

Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) Carla James says the tourism industry has suffered an estimated $32 billion in revenue thus far as a result of the deadly new Coronavirus.

During an interview with the News Room, James said since the outbreak in Guyana, 30% of employees have lost their jobs and an additional 36% have been furloughed or placed on unpaid leave.

This is data from a survey conducted by the Tourism Authority.

“The minimum that we would have lost is $32B in export earnings based on the average expenditure,” James said.

The tourism industry injected $62.6 billion into the economy in 2019; it was expected to see further growth this year.

Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) Carla James

“This reflects an estimate of $7.2B increase over 2018 with that it reinforces that tourism is verified based on those statistics as the second-largest export sector in Guyana behind gold,” according to James.

In an effort to mitigate the impact, the GTA is now working on a resiliency strategy in an effort to assist businesses involved in the industry.

“We know that the lockdown measures is not going to go on forever, there is going to be a time when it is going to be deemed safe to travel… with that we are going to be focusing on working with the sector on improving hygiene and sanitation,” James said.

She added, “We know that COVID-19 has a great impact on the tourism sector, I think first and foremost knowing that tourism is a labour-intensive sector…that is one of the main reasons for that great hit, it is an industry where you know there are people to people interaction,” James said.

James explained that when the crisis is over, the industry has to be part of any national recovery strategy if it is to bounce back.

“Tourism needs to be part of any national recovery strategy and the good thing is GRA and Ministry of Finance have been reciprocal to all the recommendations and reports we have been providing them with,” James said.

The Director is cognizant that nothing will be the same post-COVID-19.

There will be a new way of doing businesses and tourists will choose which destination best suits them due to the protocols in place.

As such, the tourism industry is going to be heightening sanitation measures, tours will be reduced and restaurants will also have to adopt new measures.

“They will be looking for places that are doing everything they can to protect their health and safety, with that the new norms make include a restaurant that usually seats 10 tables with social distancing maybe that restaurant may now have 6 tables that are spaced out,” James said.

She said airlines will also be approached about revising its cancellation policy and be encouraged to use a “postpone don’t cancel” policy.

“…we need to be flexible in the way we are dealing with clients.”

At the moment the GTA is lobbying for incentives for businesses to retain jobs which can be in the form of tax exemptions, reductions and small grants.

The GTA has implemented six months waivers for training fees and licensing fees during this time.

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