By Kurt Campbell
President Irfaan Ali Wednesday night was strong in his encouragement for a national rally around the tourism sector, one that is devoid of politics and division.
He made the impassioned appeal while addressing the first-ever Tourism Awards Gala hosted at Parc Rayne which brought together major players in the sectors and saw several receiving awards for excellence.
A former Tourism Minister himself, the President said he had gone through a period of agitation to see the ruin of several major events that had started to unleash Guyana’s tourism potential.
The cancellations of the once annual events, he observed, was done purely on the basis of politics and with the excuse of a new vision when the government changed in 2015.
“One of the sectors that has nothing to do with politics is the tourism sector, the greatest mistake one can make is to politicise the tourism sector.
“Tourism is about people… end of the story,” Dr. Ali said while delivering the feature address.
He recalled that during his stint at the Tourism Ministry, several critical tourism products were developed such as the Guyana Festival, Guyana Exposition (GuyExpo), Building Expo and the Rupununi Music Festival among others.
“When we were not even known for oil and gas people were coming for GuyExpo, Building Expo and Guyana Festival. There was nothing political about these events.
“I want everyone in this room to commit that whatever we develop in this sector, whatever product we are branding, that it is never subject to political manoeuvring,” he urged.
Dr. Ali said the government, with its strong and renewed focus on building the tourism sector, was not building a political product but a national tourism product.
“When new vision comes, it is ok to add to the product, but for God’s sake, do not destroy the product. Add as much, strengthen as much but we will forever be in a cycle like this if we don’t understand this,” the Head of State contended.
The President said his vision is to make Guyana the number one eco-tourism destination in this part of the region. He called for the capitalising of the current visibility Guyana has because of its newfound oil wealth.
“The fundamental principle and value is that what we are building is Guyana Tourism product, not PPP, not APNU not PNC, not AFC. It is a Guyana Tourism Product.”
Dr. Ali said love for the local product by the locals was also key to improving the sector.
“Yes, we are going to send out Christmas cards but the Christmas cards will be produced by single parents, our Amerindians and people living with disabilities. Everything we do from today, there must be a storyline behind what we do.
“Don’t expect to have scotch and all these fancy things, you are going to have the finest Jamoon wine and you are going to have world-class organic honey, and you’re going to have scents and candles created by our own local industry because these products are worthy of the highest office gifts,” he added.
The President said Guyanese must start to get it right and urged that it begins with an end to littering.