By Danielle Swain
“We are confident that Guyana is safe for travel”, stated Carla James, Director, Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), at a press conference on Friday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal.
Making Guyana safe for travel has been the agency’s top priority since the outbreak of the pandemic and James detailed the systems that were put in place to position Guyana to operate in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
Key actions to the speedy recovery of the Tourism and Hospitality sector, which is still reeling from global COVID-19 travel restrictions resulting in 98.4 billion in losses and leaving 4,600 persons unemployed, have included a strong commitment by the government to the industry, close collaboration between the public and private sectors and increased marketing and communication to international markets.
The GTA Director highlighted one positive outcome of the pandemic on an industry ravaged by a disease, requiring social distancing and isolation for recovery – the embracing of technology to provide an enabling environment for tourism businesses, such as permit processing times.
Training and capacity building with a focus on health and sanitation was also carried with a focus on indigenous communities in Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Seven and Nine.
Guyana, unlike many of our other eco-tourism counterparts, has a unique advantage in a socially distanced world, with a small population. This works to our advantage with eco-tourism hotspots consisting of wide-open spaces, small eco-lodges, tour groups and non-existent crowds.
Acknowledging current international non-essential travel restrictions existing in Guyana’s key markets such as Europe, the GTA director stated that domestic tourism is also key in boosting the industry.
“Right now the domestic and diaspora traveller group is the priority and focus but in order to reach that group, they are interested in very different things than international travellers, so we’re spending a great deal of time in diversifying our existing products to meet their needs.”
Although Oneidge Walrond, the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, was unable to attend Friday’s press conference, she had in her recent budget presentation described Guyana as “one of the hottest destinations on Planet Earth”, dedicating $185 million for the Tourism and Hospitality Institute and $30M for training.
“This is part of our direct intervention, one built of empathy, concern and foresight. A decision premised on the fact that the first step to recovery was to determine a way to remain safe,” she had stated.
Guyana closed its international airports and borders on March 18, 2020, a mere few days after recording its first case and death, in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly disease. With rampant and continuous testing and more capacity to fight the disease, the government decided on the phased reopening of the airports to regional and commercial fights on October 12, 2020.
Passengers, who provide a negative PCR COVID-19 test which was done within four to seven days upon their arrival here, have to undergo another test at the airports when they land. The passengers are required to isolate at home until they receive their results within 24hours.
A payment of US$85 or GY$17, 760 is required for the test.