President David Granger on Friday said that protected areas will be established in all 10 regions of the country.
The Ministry of the Presidency said in a release on Saturday that he was speaking at the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana’s (THAG) President’s Awards Ceremony 2016.
At the event, which was hosted at the Guyana Marriott Hotel, Granger expanded on his April 22 announcement in France at the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change that two million hectares of land would be set aside for conservation.
“What a country! What wildlife! What a waste to ignore the great gifts of nature. Guyana’s abundant flora and fauna constitute a priceless national and natural treasure. Our animals are capable of generating more income alive than dead; in their natural state and habitats than in pepperpot or souse. They can contribute more to the development of a world-class and globally competitive, eco-tourism product than anything else,” Granger was quoted as saying.
He posited that assigning more space to the protected areas system will ensure that these natural resources are used sustainably and preserved for future generations.
“These areas will be established in each of our ten regions to ensure that conservation is national in scale and covers all of our ecological zones in scope. Ecological parks, nature reserves and sanctuaries for our endangered species will be established to protect our flora and fauna and our natural habitats, ecosystems. Guyana’s ecotourism competitiveness will be enhanced by the fact that we are part of Caribbean and also the continent. We share borders with three South American countries. We are placed strategically to tap into the large tourist markets of our sister states of the Caribbean and the continent,” the President said.
While he noted that tourism is essential to the growth of the national economy he made no announcement of any specific initiative to boost the sector. Just over two weeks ago, THAG had expressed disquiet over plans to shift the tourism portfolio and the absence of progress on the commitments that the APNU+AFC government has made in its manifesto for the 2015 general elections.
In a statement on June 9, THAG said it was astonished at government’s reported plan to shift the tourism portfolio to the Minister of Business and it charged that APNU+AFC’s manifesto commitments remain “largely undelivered”.
THAG said that at the start of the new government’s term in office, it welcomed the appointment of Catherine Hughes as a standalone Minister of Tourism. She was later entrusted with responsibility for Public Telecommunications. THAG contended that the tourism portfolio has been “drastically diluted over the last twelve months” leading to the proposed shifting of the portfolio from Hughes to Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin.
“If the current Minister of Public Telecommunications, with a strong background in and understanding of the industry, is too busy to address the needs of the industry, how could an equally demanding portfolio of the Minister of Business be able to devote attention to the Tourism Sector?” THAG questioned
THAG emphasised that it is vital to the industry’s development to have a Minister who has the time to focus on the sector and understands the needs of the industry and auxiliary areas such as transportation, agriculture, culture, arts and craft.
“We have noted … commitments to foster sector growth in the government’s manifesto, but with two budgets presented, this commitment remains largely undelivered. THAG now believes that the steps taken by government in the last year in the administration of the sector are regressive and disadvantageous to our development”, THAG asserted.
In his address on Friday, Granger said that tourism is neither a hobby nor a sideshow. “Guyana must learn to manage the tourist industry with the same seriousness and thoughtfulness with which it manages the gold and rice industries,” he said.
He contended that Guyana is the next frontier for tourism.
“Tourists are seeking to understand the world in which they live. They…are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to protect the environment. Tourists are seeking exciting experiences. They are choosing, increasingly, ‘adventure’ tourism; ‘education’ tourism; ‘eco’-tourism; ‘geo’-tourism and ‘wildlife’ tourism, in preference to hunting expeditions and trophy safaris. These numerous and various products are available as part of the basket of products in our tourist industry on which this country could be, should be and would be concentrating,” the President said.
Capitalising on Guyana’s natural patrimony can make it a prime eco-tourism destination globally, even as it transitions to a ‘green’ economy, he added.
He said that promoting eco-tourism is vital to diversifying Guyana’s economy over the next two decades and beyond and the sustainable use of the environment is vital to its ‘green’ strategy.
“Eco-tourism, for us, involves the preservation and conservation of our natural assets… Guyana’s eco-tourism product, however, cannot be developed without improvement in investment, infrastructure and information technology,” he said.
To this end, the President pledged that infrastructural development will be done in keeping with the overall aim of linking communities via the building of aerodromes and construction of highways, roads and stellings.
The release said that THAG President, Shaun McGrath on Friday praised the government’s plan for sustainable economic growth.
“A green economy can be thought of as an alternative vision for growth and development; one that generates growth and improve peoples’ lives in ways that are consistent with sustainable development. To put it simply, a green economy promotes a triple bottom line sustaining and advocating economic, environmental and social wellbeing”, McGrath said.
He also spoke of the economic benefits garnered from Guyana’s Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary celebrations and pointed out that visitors in May doubled and all hotels, guesthouses and inns were fully booked over that period.
The release said that the Hotel of the Year award went to the Marriott Hotel Guyana, Resort/ Lodge of the Year to the Arrowpoint Nature Resort, the Direct Tourism Services Award to Trans Guyana Airways, the Tourism Supporting Services Award to ANSA McAl Trading and Hall of Fame Award 2016 to Tony Thorne of Wilderness Explorers.