Each year the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) publishes a high-quality, editorially pleasing publication that serves to remind us in ways that are emotionally satisfying, of our country’s tremendous potential as a world class tourist destination.
As it happens Explore Guyana also compels us to reflect on the sloth and indecisions of successive governments in the matter of determining whether tourism will be given a far better weighting than it is at the present time as an economic asset. They have talked the talk and afterwards they have simply turned their attention elsewhere.
Numerous public pronouncements on economic policy and annual budget presentations have made reference to the desirability of elevating tourism to a potential economic pedestal. However, the reality has made a mockery of what has been, mostly, the hot air that has been spewed by officialdom on the issue. In several respects, government has been weighed and found wanting in the matter of building a tourist industry. First, it has never come to terms with the necessity to plough what, admittedly, would be millions of dollars into marketing what the country has to offer to visitors and from which there is every indication that the country will reap returns. Second, it has neglected, over time, to incrementally improve the interior infrastructure – roads, bridges, airstrips etc – that are the life blood of hinterland tourism. Third, not nearly enough work has been done to increase the volume of airlift into Guyana that would bring more tourists here. There are other issues too: like what is still a national indifference to putting the capital in a state of readiness for visitor arrivals.
The fuss of a few months ago over urban sanitation has, to some extent, petered out into a sort of relapse into old ways. Piles of garbage deposited on corners and open spaces, often in the heart of the city, are, once again, par for the course.
There is too, a sameness in the official message in the publication delivered by whichever minister hold the tourism portfolio (try as it might the sector has simply not been able to get a ministry of its own, at least not over any length of time).
The messages tend to talk a lot but say little, though, this time around, the incumbent portfolio holder managed to concede the absence of what he termed “a long overdue national tourism policy” which, he said, would “provide the framework for an action plan for the industry which will see a coordinated and strategic approach by key stakeholders.”
The problem is that however well-intentioned Minister Dominic Gaskin’s pronouncement, what he has to say has about it the appearance of recycled rhetoric. We simply must take a deep breath and clear that particular hurdle.
To its considerable credit THAG has opted not to stand still and in the shadow of an unmoving bureaucracy. It is – and it understands this – hamstrung by the encumbrance of a bureaucracy which, when, all is said and done, has to frame the laws and craft the regulations that will give real life to a tourism industry. In the circumstances it does the best, perhaps, that it can do. Once you get hold of a copy of Explore Guyana and remind yourself in fine words and pleasing images of what we have to offer you are inclined not to give up on the dream of Guyana as a tourist destination. It is the wait that is frustrating.