‘Safety first’ restart for tourism – New THAG Head

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The newly-elected President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association (THAG), Harrinand Persaud, has emphasised that there must be a ‘safety first’ modus operandi as businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector prepare for increased tourism activity in the near future.

Persaud, who is the Chief Financial and Marketing Officer of King’s Hotel & Residences; Bistro Cafe and Bar; King’s Jewellery World and Starr Computers, spoke to the News Room on Thursday.

He said the pandemic has constrained the level of business in the local tourism and hospitality sector as it has around the world.

In the Caribbean, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reported that the tourism-dependent countries have been particularly hard-hit due to the travel restrictions imposed worldwide to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. With restrictions on travel preventing the arrival of tourists, these countries have recorded negative growth rates.

Guyana has been the only country in the Caribbean, in 2020, to record positive economic growth- primarily because of the country’s burgeoning oil and gas sector. But, Guyana’s tourism sector, which has become well reputed for its ecotourism, was not spared the impact.

Now that countries are trying to adapt to and perhaps, recover from the pandemic, Persaud emphasised that safety must remain a priority.

“It is going to be a ‘safety first’ restart and some operations have already been approved to restart and we want to make sure that it is safe for everyone,” he said.

Already, restaurants, bars and even casinos have been allowed to reopen at limited capacity. For these establishments to remain open, they must ensure that COVID-19 guidelines are maintained, including ensuring customers are adequately spaced out, that sanitization supplies are provided and that mask-wearing is adhered to. This adherence is policed by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA).

Beyond ensuring compliance with these safety measures, Persaud said that THAG is pushing for the vaccination of employees in the sector.

“With the limited capacity it is still a strain… it is going to be easier for people to come out and enjoy as more people get vaccinated,” the businessman contended.

Importantly, as he assumes leadership of the association, he anticipates that adapting to the pandemic will remain a challenge during his tenure.

To surmount this challenge, he said that efforts have to be centered on ensuring that tourists are comfortable returning to Guyana.

In the interim, he said that THAG and the other local tourism authorities will continue working to promote domestic tourism by finding ways to make travel in and around Guyana much cheaper and more attractive.

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