In a recent interview with this newspaper Director of Tourism at the Guyana Tourism Authority, Indranauth Haralsingh, who is serving as the public relations ‘point man’ for this year’s GUYEXPO, declared that the event which begins later this month will be seeking to attract more overseas buyers in order to expand external markets for Guyana’s manufactured products.
This is welcome news since – as this newspaper understands it – the creation of external markets for local goods was part of the reason for the creation of GUYEXPO in the first place.
Over the years, however, we have been able to learn sorry little about the extent to which GUYEXPO has accomplished this particular mission. It would be useful to know, for example, which of the local manufacturing entities having been incubated – so to speak by GUYEXPO – has now broken into a regional or extra-regional market in a significant way or which of our local firms have been able to close a deal with a counterpart firm somewhere in the Caribbean for the manufacture in Guyana and the sale in the region of some commodity; or which of our small manufacturers – of craft items, food and beverages or clothing might have ‘taken off’ on account of the GUYEXPO experience.
It would do the event itself a power of good if information of this nature were to be placed in the public domain, since such accomplishments would bring its reputation much more good than simply an annual account of how many exhibitors participated in the event and how many visitors went through the gates of the Sophia Exhibition Complex during the trade fair.
In contrast to the official rave reviews which GUYEXPO usually receives – and these reviews have to do mostly with the number of people who attend the event and the list of countries from which foreign exhibitors and sellers come – local participants never fail to grumble over issues like on-site logistics, the cost of renting booths, loud music and less patronage than they might have anticipated.
Of course, while no one expects that GUYEXPO can work to the satisfaction of every exhibitor, there is an understandable element of anticipation, moreso among those small businesses that regard the event as a major one-off opportunity to take advantage of a major market.
Major companies, here, the telecommunications service providers come to mind – of course, are unlikely to miss the opportunity afforded by GUYEXPO to re-enforce their respective brands on the local market while small manufacturers – in the jewelry and clothing sectors, for example – are always hopeful that GUYEXPO will bring them a major marketing breakthrough or some irresistible joint venture offer; so that businesses that set out their stalls at GUYEXPO do so, in many cases, for entirely different reasons and that includes those enterprises that offer food, drink and music. In fact there is an argument which says that some of these enterprises actually work at cross purposes.
Whatever else may be said about GUYEXPO there is an irresistible ‘pull’ to the event; it has the effect of a giant evening fair with food, drink and entertainment for adults and rides and colourful trinkets for the kids. It is this that has led to the conclusion in some quarters that GUYEXPO is yet to make up its mind about what it wants to be.
For all its faults, the irresistible ‘pull’ remains. These past few days we have spoken with half a dozen or so manufacturers in the craft and clothing sectors about participating in GUYEXPO. All, without exception, will be at GUYEXPO. At the same time, all without exception has one ‘gripe’ or another about the event.
In the final analysis GUYEXPO is probably no more than an indispensable piece of furniture in need of fixing. We can start with serious and honest assessments of each event which have to do with the extent to which it has won overseas markets for locally produced goods, the number of joint venture agreements that might have been signed between local and foreign companies, the extent to which local clothing, jewelry and craft manufacturers have expanded both their local and overseas markets and whether or not GUYEXPO may have contributed to growing the Guyana brand both in the region and beyond. Information of this type can help us to make informed assessments of GUYEXPO and the extent of the impact which it makes. In the absence of such reporting, the annual hype and hoopla over the event amounts to no more than whistling in the wind.