One of the many pieces missing from Guyana’s tourism jigsaw is how to go about creating a training regime that would allow us to offer an at least acceptable level of service to visitors.
The range of disciplines necessary to build a strong human resource base in the hospitality sector must of necessity begin with providing training for owners and managers of hotels and guest houses, some of whom entered the sector in the spirit of entrepreneurship, only to discover subsequently that there is much more to running a hotel than meets the eye.
The Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) is one of three entities delivering next week’s workshop for owners and managers on the subject of marketing small hotels, presumably including guest houses. That should be of interest to all but a handful of properties in the sector even though we understand that the workshop only has room for about 25 participants.
Limited spaces on the few training programmes available to the Guyanese hospitality sector apart, there is also the issue of the relatively narrow range of training programmes available. Perusal of the various cafeterias, restaurants and snackettes in the city often reveal the most shocking absence of even the most fundamental protocols of customer care. So that it is not difficult to detect that little if any time and money is invested in that type of training. Over the years we have looked to the Carnegie School of Home Economics to provide some of the types of training that are needed in the hospitality sector. Two points should be made here.
The first is that while Carnegie has done its best within its limitations, what the school has to offer cannot take us anywhere near the top of the pile as far as high-quality hospitality service is concerned. The second point simply has to do with the fact that the country’s hospitality sector – even with its considerable existing limitations – has simply grown well beyond the capacity of Carnegie to deliver trained workers so that there is now considerable competition amongst the significantly increased number of hotels and guest houses for Carnegie-trained persons.
Just a few weeks ago the government announced that it was investing US$4 million hospitality school though the problem there is that sloth, prevarication and extension of deadlines for the completion of projects has become par for the course as far as state-funded projects are concerned. This newspaper’s own recent conversations with THAG officials suggest that some operators in the sector remain altogether unconvinced about government’s commitment to the tourism industry. If that is in fact the case then we are hardly likely to see any significant surge on investment in training or any other part of the sector.
It is, it seems, for government to take decisive steps to prove its detractors wrong and in that regard it can certainly do worse than embark on a planned, phased and sustained programme in targeted international markets to promote Guyana as a tourist destination. However much we may pretend to the contrary Guyana remains relatively unknown in the far-flung regions of the world and what little is known about us is not always flattering. Visitors to Guyana are mostly people who come on business, Guyanese living in the diaspora and international civil servants working in Guyana. They come in small numbers but those numbers are still important to the broader marketing of the country on the international market. The problem is, of course, that we are still a considerable distance away from providing a level of service to visitors that can engender higher levels of optimism that the marketing of our tourism product is having an impact where it matters.