Convinced that Guyana’s tourism product has the potential to be a game-changer in the growth of the Guyana economy, Roraima Airways is in the process of investing some US$3 million in staffing and infrastructure.
This was disclosed by Chief Executive Officer, Captain Gerry Gouveia in a recent exclusive interview with Stabroek Business. He said the number of Roraima staff will move from 200 to 260.
At the top of the list of the company’s initiatives designed to lift the profile of the local tourism industry are its collaborative initiatives with international airlines to significantly improve airlift capacity to Guyana, investment in additional aircraft and increasing the number of destinations to which visitors to the country will have access.
However, Gouveia told Stabroek Business that the work of private investors like Roraima in seeking to add value to the tourism sector needs to attract a far more significant official effort through meaningful investment in the marketing of Guyana’s tourism product abroad. “Over the years the authorities have talked a good game without really doing much more. Roraima continues to show faith in the potential of the tourism industry by persisting in investment in the sector despite the insufficient official effort to place sufficient emphasis on marketing the country abroad,” Gouveia told Stabroek Business.
The Roraima CEO cited the company’s multi-million dollar acquisition earlier this year of three Trislander, triple-engine, 18-seater aircraft as its most significant strategic investment and one which had resulted in the company being able to reduce the cost of its fares to the Kaieteur Falls from US$200 to US$145. He said that the acquisition of faster aircraft with greater capacity coupled with the ongoing local runway rehabilitation programme meant that the local aviation sector is now better positioned to reach various parts of the country.
And according to Gouveia, Roraima’s collaborative work with external airlines has seen a significant increase in airlift capacity to Guyana. He said that the company’s work with Dynamic Airlines had resulted in the movement of 80,000 passengers in and out of Guyana between January and September this year on 180 flights. Insel Air, meanwhile, is now moving 500 passengers per week between Guyana and 19 destinations in the region (increased airlift) including Cuba, Jamaica, and St Martin and Miami. There are also five flights per week to Boa Vista, Brazil.
Gouveia said that with thawing relations between Havana and Washington beginning to have a knock-on effect on travel patterns, Guyana is increasingly being seen by Cubans as a destination of choice. Accordingly, Roraima will be teaming up with the carrier Easy Sky from Honduras, flying 737’s, to move a likely 350 passengers weekly to Guyana. Stabroek Business understands that an application has already been made to the authorities here for Easy Sky to fly to Guyana. According to Gouveia when the new collaborative initiative gets underway it is likely to see an additional 400 visitors arriving here weekly.
Part of the company’s ongoing investment in on-the-ground capacity including staffing will be focused on adding new visitor locations to existing ones. These, according to Gouveia will include the Linden resort, Lucky Spot as part of a tour that will include the Kaieteur Falls as well as Victoria, Guyana’s first village on the East Coast of Demerara.
And according to Gouveia, the marketing opportunity afforded Guyana on account of the country’s Jubilee celebrations “was a good kickstart for taking the sector forward. He estimates that as many as 30,000 visitors may have travelled to Guyana during the Jubilee period.
For all his seeming optimism about the future of the country’s tourism industry, however, the Roraima boss told Stabroek Business that he believes that the weak link in the chain has been the lack of government investment in marketing the country abroad over the years.
“We clearly need to recruit an experienced international tourism consultant to identify and begin to seriously market our tourism product. We could be looking at somewhere in the region of US$5-10 million in product development and marketing,” Gouveia said.
Pointing to the examples of Belize, Costa Rica and Jamaica, Gouveia told Stabroek Business that countries that have no greater potential than Guyana are well ahead of us.
“Our policymakers still seem unable to comprehend the intangible. Tourism is harder to sell than sugar and rice and we clearly need to up our game. Both Go-Invest and the Tourism Authority need to up their game as far as promoting Guyana as an investment haven is concerned. We hear very little about the work of Go-Invest in that regard. We have been talking a good game but not really doing much more”, he stated.