Accelerate marriage tourism amendment – Gouveia urges

Even as Roraima Airways prepares to host the annual Wedding Expo next month, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Gerry Gouveia has told Stabroek Business that the process of amending the country’s Marriage Act to reduce the residency requirement from fifteen days to two days for non-nationals wishing to marry in Guyana, must be accelerated.

This is necessary to allow the change in the law to impact on visitor arrivals and on the tourism industry as a whole as early as possible.

“There is no reason why this cannot be accelerated since it can have an immediate impact on the tourism industry and on the country’s economy as a whole,” Gouveia told Stabroek Business earlier this week.

For several years Roraima Airways has been using its annual Wedding Expo to mount a lobby for a change in the law which Gouveia has argued would have the effect of attracting a higher volume of wedding tourism to Guyana.

“It is true that there are other infrastructure-related issues that will have to be dealt in order to make Guyana more wedding tourism-friendly but amended legislation is fundamental to the process. The whole idea is to allow persons living abroad and wanting to use Guyana as the location for their weddings to do so without having to deal with what can be the inconvenience of having to be here for two weeks, often more, in order to do so. The impact could well be immediate,” Gouveia said.

And according to the one-time Guyana Defence Force Officer the amendment of the law could have a multi-faceted impact on the country’s economy linked to “the spinoffs from increased visitor arrivals alone. Once couples and their guests start arriving here for short term stay associated with weddings sectors that include accommodation, food, entertainment and transformation, among others, are likely to be boosted immediately.”

“Most of what happens for the tourism industry happens far too slowly and since there is no obvious difficulty with dealing with this particular piece of legislation there is no reason why it ought not to happen pretty quickly,” Gouveia said. Once the law is changed and potential wedding tourism visitors, including Guyanese in the diaspora become aware of this, we will most likely see a greater influx of visitors taking advantage of the removal of that administrative hindrance in order to get married here,” Gouveia says.

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 fifteen days 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. The Roraima Airways boss told Stabroek Business that he believes that the prospect of an increased level of wedding tourism here could also trigger an infusion of investment in the country’s tourism infrastructure.

“We could, for example, witness investments in the upgrading of interior resorts that might be potential locations for wedding events. Roraima Airways’ own Arrow Point Resort is integrated into the company’s tourism offerings and aspects of the Wedding Expo programme are staged there.

Meanwhile, Gouveia says that while next month’s 10th Annual Wedding Expo will not be directly impacted by the announcement of the change in the law he believed that it was, nonetheless“, an upbeat announcement for the sector as a whole that will create an uplifting environment at this year’s Wedding Expo.  The various businesses that will be participating in this year’s Wedding Expo are now being given something towards which they can work in terms of anticipating the likelihood of more business in the sector next year and beyond,” Gouveia said.

Gouveia acknowledges, however, that the effort to raise the profile of wedding tourism in Guyana to match the level of success realized elsewhere in the region has to go beyond legislative change.

“Apart from the convenience that will be created by the change in the law we are going to need an infrastructural makeover in several areas. The service sector including hotels and restaurants are going to have to raise their game and public services are going to have to get with it as far as service quality is concerned, otherwise people will simply go elsewhere in the Caribbean to destinations with a more pleasing track record”, he said.

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