Long awaited law change seen as boosting marriage tourism

Deputy Director of Tourism Carla Chandra

Chief Executive Officer of Roraima Airways Inc. Gerry Gouveia has described as “a major potential breakthrough for the tourism sector the announcement by the Guyana Tourism Authority that government is now moving definitively to effect an amendment to the country’s Marriage Act that would allow for a reduction of the residency requirement from fifteendays to two days for non-nationals wishing to marry in Guyana.

At the launch of Roraima’s Wedding Expo 2018 at the Duke Lodge on Wednesday, Deputy Director of Tourism, Carla Chandra announced that draft legislation designed to effect the requisite reduction of the residency requirement has been completed and has been passed to the Attorney General’s Chambers for scrutiny. Chandra told the launch event that it was likely that new legislation could be in place by year end.

Responding to the announcement, Gouveia told Stabroek Business that he believed that it was “one of the most meaningful developments in the context of the forward movement of the tourism industry in a number of years. Once the legislation is passed I foresee the number of couples not resident in Guyana wanting to be married here. It could be a game-changer for visitor arrivals,” the businessman told Stabroek Business.

But Gouveia told Stabroek Business that it was his hope that the process towards the passage of corrective legislation “does not take as long as the lobbying process has done. Frankly, it’s about time we get over this hurdle, Gouveia said.

In 2014 the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) commenced research on the Marriage Act and more specifically on the 15-day residency requirement.  Chandra said that the research was prompted by calls from the private sector for the residency requirement to be reduced    since it did not encourage or promote Guyana as a wedding destination.

Following consultations with the Guyana Registrar Office (GRO) a recommendation was made that a provision be inserted into the current law to allow for the shortening of the residency requirement.

Data emanating from the GRO revealed that for 2014, only 6% of total marriages were by non-    nationals. Research on other destinations in the Caribbean revealed that most countries either have no residency requirement or have a residency requirement ranging from one to three days. The consultations with the GRO were followed by a draft proposal in 2015 for the residency requirement for non-nationals wishing to marry here to two days. This proposal was    sent to the Ministry of Legal Affairs for review and a Marriage Amendment Bill    was   drafted   by   the   Office   of   the   Chief   Parliamentary   Counsel seeking to effect change to section 43 of the Marriage Act 45:01 which addresses the residency requirement issue.

The draft has already been reviewed by the GTA and the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG). Stabroek Business understands that once the Bill is reviewed by the Attorney General’s Chambers it will then be sent to the Ministry of Citizenship for further scrutiny.   The announcement by the GTA’s Deputy Director that after several years there has been movement towards amendment to the Marriage Act was met by enthusiastic applause by the modest gathering that attended Wednesday’s launch of the Wedding Expo held in the Roraima Duke Lodge’s recently established Symposium reception hall. The Ministry of Business has said in a pronouncement shared with Stabroek Business that the amendment to the legislation seeks to promote Guyana as the quintessential Wedding/Honeymoon Destination,    encourage   resorts   and   hotels   to   market   Guyana   as   a   wedding/honeymoon destination, increase the number of non-nationals opting to choose Guyana as a wedding destination, attract more honeymooning tourists and increase visitor expenditure.

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