The head of the tourism association says the government must invest in promoting the industry abroad and help to make it competitive in the region, a call that has been made repeatedly over the years.
Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) President Kit Nascimento, speaking at Thursday’s launching of the Explore Guyana 2014 magazine also hammered the government and city council over the state of the city and historic buildings.
In his remarks to the event, held at the Cara Lodge, Nascimento cited the draft findings of a report composed by a Barbados consultant, Cecil Miller who was engaged through the Ministry of Tourism and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Nascimento said that Miller pointed out at a recent workshop that Guyana must be competitive globally and regionally and that a vital component of this is the incentives which government offers to potential and actual investors. According to Nascimento, the consultant noted that competing tourism economies such as Costa Rica, Trinidad and Barbados, offer tax concessions to tourism investors far superior to Guyana. He said these countries have Value Added Tax (VAT) rates higher than Guyana but the VAT charged for tourism in the Bahamas is 10%, in Barbados 7.5% and in T&T 10%. Nascimento said that with the exception of the Rupununi, the local tourism sector pays the full VAT rate of 16%.
Further, Nascimento said Miller pointed out that in comparison with 10 tourist destinations in the region, ranging from Antigua to St Vincent and the Grenadines, including Costa Rica which offer the same nature-based tourism as Guyana, all have a legislative component dealing with incentives for the tourism industry. Guyana needs such legislation, he argued.
He added that Miller noted that a government sends an important message to investors and visitors about its commitment to and confidence in the industry in how it treats its own industry.
“A government legislating specifically to provide incentive for its own tourism industry sends a strong message of confidence in the industry. However, a government which does not officially recognize that the tourism sector is and can be an important contributor to the GDP and does not treat with tourism as a line item in its budget, sends the opposite message”, Nascimento contended.
He chided the opposition for its “hostility” to projects which can enhance tourism such as the Marriott Hotel and the expanded Timehri airport. He posited that tourism required an unequivocal partnership between the government and the private sector. “The private sector will take the financial risk to develop the product. We ask only that our government invest in promoting our product internationally and that our governmentlevel the playing fields at home to make us competitive in the region. We ask no more and no less than that from our government,” Nascimento said.
Earlier, he had pointed to two events which had gained Guyana an international profile and he called on the government to ramp up promotion and advertising using these two events.
The two events were the listing of Guyana by National Geographic as one of the 21 destinations in its Traveler magazine’s 2014 ‘Best of the World’.
According to information published on the National Geographic Soc-iety’s website, the list features the 21 best trips to take next year.
The website offers information on where to go in Guyana—Surama, Iwo-krama, Kaieteur Falls and the Rupununi etc.
The second event was the visit of a Hollywood star, who on the David Letterman show was full of praise for his visit here.
Pointing out that this year’s edition of the magazine featured a number of grand old colonial houses which are still well preserved, Nascimento lamented what was happening with others.
“These homes and houses are of tremendous value as a tourist attraction but, sadly, fast disappearing. Our City Hall, exceptional in its architecture, is being allowed to collapse. Our National Trust should be empowered and funded to order the preservation of these buildings as part of our historic heritage and as a commitment to our tourism product.
“We are fortunate that these historical buildings we have featured in the magazine are being preserved and adapted for re-use and that, as a result, our once garden city still retains some of its unique character and charm. However, this is in sharp and ugly contrast to the rot and decay that has been allowed to take over so much of our capital city by the mismanagement of our City Council and misguided administration of our Ministry of Local Govern-ment. We need to fix this,” he forwarded.
He asked how the country could be honestly promoted to tourists when just the week before George-town had become what he described as a garbage-strewn lake. He said that until the local government power structure was reformed and local government elections held “the buck stops with the government”.