Caribbean tourism conference kicks off today

Guyana is hoping to cash in on a variety of opportunities at the 13th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development which begins here today.

Authorities yesterday gave the assurance that preparations were far advanced for the event which will be attended by an estimated 45 local representatives and 145 from across the Caribbean, between April 15 and18.
The theme of the conference is ‘Keeping the Right Balance: Sustaining our Resources.’

Tourism Minister (ag) Irfaan Ali noted that Guyana was well-placed to take advantage of agricultural opportunities for the tourism sector while at the same time was pushing the need for a sustainable tourism industry.

“At a time in the world when we are faced with global warming and environmental degradation, Guyana is the proud host when the world is debating the state of the environment and sustainable development,” he told a press conference.

Workers examining the New Guyana Marketing Corporation booth at the Liliendaal Conference Centre set up for the Sustainable Tourism Conference which gets underway today.(Photo by Gaulbert Suterland)

Unlike the rest of the Caribbean, Guyana’s tourism industry offers eco-based, nature-based and adventure tourism. But Ali acknowledged that climate change would affect the sector both in the island-chain and in Guyana. He singled out beach erosion and coral bleaching in some parts of the region as well as the destruction of forests as examples of the effects of climate change.

Guyana, he said “is ready and proud” to host the conference for the second time, and looks to lead by example as well as push the Low Carbon Development Strategy as a form of sustainable tourism. A number of exhibitions covering agriculture, fashion and art and craft are being mounted during the conference.“We are looking to use this conference to expand that market, to bring greater opportunities to the agro-processing industry and other agro-investors through an exhibition,” said Ali.

Media Consultant, Guyanese Sandra Baptiste said this year’s conference sought to capitalize on the wealth of experience in the Caribbean by ensuring that the majority of keynote presenters were from the region.“The feeling is that we have got a wealth of experience in the Caribbean in the tourism industry…and so the idea is rather than bring a lot of people from all around the globe at a lot of expense, this conference is going to home in on a lot of our Caribbean specialists,” she said.

The Guyanese experts include Donald Sinclair, Shyam Nokta of the Office of Climate Change and Annette Arjoon-Martins, but among those likely to miss the conference is former president, Bharrat Jagdeo. Ali explained that this is because Jagdeo  is out of the country dealing with matters related to the three forest basins for which he is Goodwill Ambassador.

Topics at the conference will include how to craft, deliver and market customer-centric tourism products and  integrating bio-diversity principles into hotel resorts siting and design.

Several internationally recognized media houses have already dispatched representatives to Guyana to cover the conference, something the Tourism Minister believes bodes well for the country. “We see this as an excellent opportunity through which Guyana can be promoted, our product can be advanced and the opportunities that are rich and real for the tourism sector can be realized,” he said. The media agencies include the National Geographic and USA Today.

“This where we will have the opportunity of outlining the potential benefits to the rest of the Caribbean as a result of the critical infrastructure investment that Guyana will be putting in place,”

With garbage disposal and vagrancy being major bugbears facing Georgetown, Guyana is looking to put on a good face in the capital city at least for the duration of the conference.

“One of the areas that we are focusing on continuously is that of the city to ensure that the clean-up campaign is continuous and one that would not create any uneasiness,” said Ali.

The conference kicks off with a media tour this morning before the official opening ceremony this evening at 6.30pm.

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