Over time there has been no shortage of public debate as to whether or not GuyExpo serves it real purpose, that purpose being to provide a platform from which local producers of goods and services can access local and international buyers and potential buyers in order to expand their markets and, by extension, their earnings.
In effect, GuyExpo is expected to serve as the country’s premier trade fair so that all the time, money and energy spent bringing the exhibitors together and generally ensuring that the event is properly organized must be complemented by corresponding efforts to attract to the event people from across the country, the region, the hemisphere and elsewhere who come to event prepared to do business. If the latter objective, that of mobilizing potential buyers cannot be achieved then one has every right to question whether or not the event serves its purpose.
A great deal of planning usually goes into putting GuyExpo together. Apart from the logistical considerations associated with allocating booth space, ensuring that these are taken and making arrangements for what is usually a grand opening ceremony there is also the matter of engaging regional and international participants and administering arrangements for their visit and their participation in the event. This task has traditionally been undertaken by the Guyana Office For Investment (Go-Invest) and there is evidence that a great deal of effort usually goes into this particular aspect of putting GuyExpo together. Every aspect of this particular exercise never really runs smoothly and we recall that immediately prior to previous GuyExpos officials of Go-Invest were still struggling to confirm the specifics of overseas representation.
At the local end, a far higher profile attaches itself to the planning of GuyExpo and a great deal of effort generally goes into the logistics of accommodating the tens of thousands of visitors who attend the event. Indeed, one often gets the impression that the numbers that pass through the gates to witness the event are used as the main barometer with which to measure the success or otherwise of GuyExpo.
Much of GuyExpo is about leisure and entertainment and no amount of prevarication can obscure that fact. GuyExpo is, variously, a family night- out; an opportunity to hang out with friends and an occasion for entertainment. The event attracts young people, features popular music and food and drinks stalls usually do much better than – for example – art and craft exhibiters. The extended queues for tickets to enter Sophia comprise revellers and entertainment seekers not potential buyers.
It would be more than useful, for example, if the organizers can allow us to follow the post-event outcomes of GuyExpo, not only in terms of agreements that may be reached between buyers and sellers but also in terms of whether or not these agreements blossom into longer term commitments that represent sustainable markets for local producers.
The art and craft industry, for example, continues to fret over the fact that despite what they concede have been the efforts of Go-Invest to support craftspeople, the sector is yet to take off; and they point to GuyExpo as a possible avenue for just such a takeoff except that they continue to express concern over the fact that most of the visitors to GuyExpo simply come to admire their handiwork and make no significant contribution to boosting sales.
At a recent Guyana Arts and Craft Producers Association symposium some of the discourses centred around how the sector could consolidate its marketing ties with buyers in the region and just recently the association’s General Secretary Denzil Hollingsworth told Stabroek Business that she hoped some buyers from the region would visit GuyExpo specifically to take a closer look at the local craft industry.
On the whole GuyExpo is still to come even close to realizing its fullest potential. There is room for the organizers of the event to continue to revisit their approaches and refine their strategies in order to take the event ever closer to realizing its real objectives.