GuyExpo: not all good, but not all bad

For all the vigorous and, frankly, fanciful and far-fetched efforts of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) to sell GuyExpo XV as a flawless success, it is patently obvious that nothing can be further from the truth. Mind you, lest it be felt that this remark is intended to be an all-embracing condemnation of the event, one must hasten to add that nothing, too, can be further from the truth.

This year, as in previous years, there were things about GuyExpo that were encouraging. One particular example is the number of return exhibitors, mostly small vendors, who said openly that the marketing opportunities opened up by their attendance in previous years were primarily what kept bringing them back.

On Saturday evening there was an Amerindian woman called Jenny selling an assortment of Amerindian beverages, who told us that while her profits from participating in GuyExpo were “nothing much” she usually looked forward to being in the city and trading alongside the urban vendors. GuyExpo, this newspaper has long come to understand, means different things to different people. Viewed from that perspective the event will always be, in one respect or another, a success.

However, the GTA went completely overboard.

The fact is that far too many vendors participated in GuyExpo and far too many visitors attended the event for the GTA’s media release, issued, it seemed, even before the lights were turned out on GuyExpo XV, to secure any real traction. Truth be told, by trying so hard, the GTA has done the event a grave disservice.

The credibility of what the GTA had to say about GuyExpo fell at the first hurdle, coming as close as it did to suggesting that all and sundry had agreed that the event was an unforgettable affair. The comments attributed to some of the vendors in the media release may well have been legitimate but then one swallow – or about a dozen in this instance – does not make a summer. That apart you cannot extrapolate unanimity from the generous comments of a handful of suitably disposed vendors.

None of the customary concerns of the previous years that had to do with cost of booth space, overcrowding, loud music and, in instances, a scarcity of security were absent this year. On the other hand, it seemed that both the commercial and the entertainment sides of the event delivered enough as to create a condition of general contentment.

The problem with the GTA’s missive is that it was sufficiently precipitate to render its pronouncements more than a trifle farcical. Indeed, one wonders whether the conclusions arrived at in its media release are intended to supplant a much more thorough assessment of the event which, hopefully, will be made public.

At a time when the raising of standards in the productive sector is critical to better positioning Guyana to compete more effectively on the global stage, indulgence in the kind of self-delusory rhetoric penned by the GTA and tendered as an assessment of the outcomes of Guyexpo XV can cause the authorities to become unmindful of the need to make those critical adjustments without which the event will quickly outlive its usefulness.

Ironically, while the GTA’s media release could find no place for what would have been an altogether appropriate comment about the fact that GuyExpo has outgrown the Sophia Pavilion, the Authority’s Director himself told this newspaper that the organisers were now challenged to find a new home for the trade exposition. If he is correct – and we believe that he is – then that alone, surely, detracts from the picture of excellence which the release seeks to paint.

The problem with events like GuyExpo is that they are intricately interwoven with the bragging rights of politicians and bureaucrats so that there is every reason to apply a bit of spin here and a bit of propaganda there in order to embellish the event. But there is a downside to this practice. Fanciful pronouncements insult the intelligence and offend the sensibilities of people who are resistant to Orwellian tales. And in the final analysis they come back to haunt the creator, who may well become an object of mirth and ridicule.


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