Minister pressed for more tourism marketing funds

The Committee of Supply on Wednesday evening approved the $2.2B budgetary estimates for the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce even as AFC member Cathy Hughes stressed that more money was needed to reached desired tourism targets.

“Why haven’t you made a request for larger marketing funds?” Hughes asked. “We will always be trying to make do with a trade show here and there,” she told subject minister Irfaan Ali.

Hughes, during consideration of the ministry’s proposed capital and current expenditures, said that if Guyana was aiming to market its tourism then the requisite funds should be channelled into this area and its international marketing plan needs to be sound.

She questioned how funds proposed for the sector will be used and Ali said that most will go towards marketing, while also noting that the amounts in the budget were “crafted within the economic realities of where we are today.”

He informed that last year about $25M to $30M was mostly used for trade fairs and shows. In addition, he explained that plans were in train to have tourism brochures translated into Spanish to target new markets as new airlines will soon be operating here. He made reference to Copa Airlines, which is scheduled to commence flights to Panama in June this year. Ali said that staff of his ministry will also be trained in Spanish.

In response to a question posed by APNU’s Joseph Harmon, Ali stated that Guyana’s consulate offices in foreign territories, especially New York and London, not only assist with marketing the country and answering questions about it but they also directly liaise with the Ministry of Tourism through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He also faced questions by Harmon on some $29M in capital expenditure that was requested to purchase furniture for the Guyana International Conference Centre, at Liliendaal and on the overall management of the facility. Harmon said that APNU wanted to know the process for renting the facility and prices paid.

Ali explained that the centre was developed for “mainstream and major national conferences” and he added that while there were a few weddings held at the venue, it was not intended for parties and social events. “We guard against the expanded use,” he told members of the Committee of Supply.

Asked why the ministry needed $29M to spend on equipment for the centre, Ali informed that it was to modernise the technology at the facility, and for the purchase of projectors and microphones, among other items.

Addressing the proposed $1B to support enterprise development initiatives in rural enterprise, Ali explained that in communities countrywide there will be a revolving fund to bring interest-free funds to villagers to start or assist their businesses. He also promised that there will be quarterly programmes on the progress of the $1B rural development fund and he encouraged members from regions countrywide to educate their villagers about how to access it. “This revolving fund covers all regions. Once it is approved, public ads will be made and calls for proposals to be part of this revolving fund,” he said.

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