GUYANA’S Tourism Industry, like others across the world, has come to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic and the country has lost billions in revenue, while hundreds in the sector are temporarily jobless.

However, there is optimism in the air as leaders in the sector expect that the country will retake its spotlight as a leading destination once the deadly pandemic passes.

“The industry has really faced a shutdown, so we’re talking about hundreds of people losing their jobs; hundreds of millions in revenue lost,” said President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG), Mitra Ramkumar in an interview on Sunday.

With Guyana’s emergency measures in place, of the entire travel and tourism industry, only “hotels and accommodation” have been catered for as essential services.

Even so, with the ban on international travel, most hotels are empty and those still operating are doing so with a skeleton staff, at a loss of profits and with just a few guests “far below” the operating average.

The lack of guests at hotels and the closure of other businesses in the travel and tourism industry has resulted in the majority of workers losing their jobs. A smaller number of persons are being paid reduced salaries.

The Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) has estimated that the loss in direct expenditures within the economy is a minimum of GY$32.8B in 2020 in export earnings.

On the average, the overall economic impact from COVID-19 on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be much higher, totalling an estimated GY$98.4B in losses in 2020.

WE WANT SUPPORT

Ramkumar said that the industry, through THAG and the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), is seeking assistance from the government to keep itself afloat long enough to make a positive rebound post-COVID-19.

He said that the industry understands the current situation the government is in with regard to the pending elections resolution, but hopes that more measures can be put in place to cater for persons who would lose their jobs or would suffer pay cuts as a result of the pandemic.

Some hinterland communities in Guyana usually depended on the visitation of tourists to financially support their villages and this too has dried up.

THAG has had to make the tough call for the full closure of all places of entertainment, including bars, clubs, gymnasiums, nightclubs, restaurants and swimming pools, to ensure that the chances of the spread of the virus are lessened.

The emergency measures put in place by the Government later cemented their closure as mandatory by law.

Ramkumar said that the industry is thankful for support from banking institutions and from the Guyana Revenue Authority when it comes to the filing and payment of taxes.

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“Those are good feedback but the industry needs to survive so a stimulus package will be for of injection of liquidity to keep businesses going to hibernate through this period,” he said.

In light of these and other requests, the government has rolled out a survey for the private sector to determine the extent to which businesses have been impacted by COVID-19.

The survey is being conducted by the Ministry of Business, in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, and will be used to shape informed economic policy considerations.

REMAINING POSITIVE

The THAG President expects that once the virus is under control worldwide there will be a spike in tourism. He said that the Guyana Tourism Authority and THAG have been preparing for this by keeping the thought of Destination Guyana ever in the thoughts of the international community.

Prior to the virus, the said that Guyana was well on its way to seeing the largest number of tourists it has ever had and raking in more money than before.

“Guyana’s tourism industry has been rapidly growing over the years,” Ramkumar said, while adding that “there was a huge demand expected for this year but all of that now comes to a grinding halt.”

For 2019, Guyana was recognised as the ‘Number one Eco-Tourism destination’ in the world, the ‘Best in Destination Stewardship’, and a ‘Top Ten Sustainable Destination’ in the world.

Working along with the GTA, THAG has been pushing the message of ‘Stay At Home Now So That You can Travel Tomorrow.’ The hope is to encourage tourists to do their part to end the epidemic so that they can travel to Guyana when it is over.

Ramkumar said that ‘sun, sand and sea’ tourism has not been making significant leaps and bounds in recent times as opposed to destinations such as Guyana, which offer adventure and the chance to experience something completely new and unique.

“We need to keep Guyana in their minds. There is so much we have to offer but we need to keep that messaging. What we’re doing now is to make Destination Guyana appealing for tomorrow. There are going to be other destinations, but Guyana needs to be aggressive to benefit when the time comes,” Ramkumar said.

“We just need to wait this thing out, we need to get past this dark cloud; once we do, then there will be a silver lining.”