The Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) recently delivered a presentation to the National COVID-19 Task Force. We demonstrated that the industry stood ready to re-open the majority of our lodges and tourism destination facilities, responsibly and safely in conformity with the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place, elsewhere in Guyana. Yet, it is inexplicable that our industry remains closed. It is beyond our understanding that every other industry is permitted to function with little restraint. By contrast, with many other industries, our lodges, riversides, creeks and savannah destinations are open-air, professionally run, with trained staff and established SOPs. These operations offer open-air dining under the skies and plenty of space for social distancing.
Extracts from the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) report on the Financial Impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, 2020 show: Guyana’s economy is estimated at a minimum of GY$32.8B in export earnings based on the average expenditure per international traveller. This excludes indirect or induced economic impacts. Based on an analysis of the Visitors Exit Motivation Survey (VEMS) of the Bureau of Statistics, the GTA estimates that the average expenditure per international traveller per visit was GY$222,216 in 2018. Why, therefore, is our industry, thoughtlessly being shut down?
The inconsistency and absence of rational application of the COVID-19 pandemic regulations are perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that a visitor from Georgetown can get on a crowded water taxi, arrive in Bartica and check in to any hotel. The same visitor is, however, not allowed to get on a boat, owned and operated by a tour operator, conforming to all COVID-19 best practices and can be accommodated at any of the riverside tourism destinations surrounding Bartica. Again, by contrast, a visitor joins a crowded minibus, arrives in Lethem and checks into any one of the numerous forms of commercial accommodation without restriction, but is unable to check into any one of the many highly professionally managed tourism lodges. We address this statement to our Government, appealing directly to the Prime Minister, as Chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force, to reconsider the current shutdown of our industry. We stand ready to be inspected and to respond professionally to any SOPs applied to any other Industry, whether essential or otherwise, which is allowed to function. We only ask for fair and equitable treatment. THAG represents 47 companies/77 small & medium-sized enterprises.
It has been eight months, and counting since the Tourism & Hospitality Industry of Guyana has been closed due to the pandemic, without any revenue-generating opportunities, with facilities closed, staff furloughed or laid off. The industry operators have a greater vested interest in a safe return to business as we fully understand the plight of our staff and their families who have been severely impacted by the pandemic. It is inconceivable how these workers, predominantly women, single mothers supporting their families, have been managing these eight months.
Restart tourism, leaving no one behind.
Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana