Ad­vanc­ing Guyana’s Green State Agenda through Tourism

Stabroek News - - STABROEK BUSINESS - By Brian T. Mullis

The tourism sec­tor is widely rec­og­nized glob­ally as a vi­tal con­trib­u­tor to job and wealth cre­ation, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion. Well-de­signed and man­aged tourism is renowned for its po­ten­tial to con­trib­ute to the preser­va­tion of the nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage upon which it de­pends, em­power host com­mu­ni­ties, gen­er­ate trade op­por­tu­ni­ties and fos­ter peace and in­ter­cul­tural un­der­stand­ing. This is, in part, why the United Na­tions World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UN WTO) and their mem­ber states for­mally rec­og­nized the ac­tual and po­ten­tial con­tri­bu­tion of tourism to all 17 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs).

In or­der to re­al­ize the po­ten­tial of the travel and tourism sec­tor, in­ter-min­is­te­rial and multi-sec­toral col­lab­o­ra­tion is re­quired — among stake­hold­ers from the na­tional to lo­cal level — in the de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of poli­cies, na­tional and re­gional strate­gies, and ac­tion plans will en­able the sec­tor to take ad­van­tage of the in­ter­link­ages and cross-cut­ting eco­nomic im­pacts of tourism and achieve the SDGs. This is be­gin­ning to hap­pen in Guyana. The Gov­ern­ment of Guyana is ac­tively pur­su­ing a ‘green’ agenda with the im­pend­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Green State De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy (GSDS).

The Guyana Tourism Au­thor­ity (GTA) is ac­tively align­ing its strate­gic ac­tion plan and pro­gram­matic ac­tiv­i­ties with the GSDS. This in­cludes in­cor­po­rat­ing sus­tain­able tourism best prac­tice into all as­pects of pro­gram­ming. To en­sure a more co­or­di­nated ap­proach to tourism de­vel­op­ment and am­plify the pos­i­tive im­pacts as­so­ci­ated with tourism, the Au­thor­ity is also align­ing its pri­or­i­ties and col­lab­o­rat­ing with sis­ter gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies, the tourism pri­vate sec­tor, de­vel­op­ment agen­cies and non­prof­its. Guyana’s top ex­port earn­ers. Ac­cord­ing to the Bank of Guyana An­nual Re­port 2017, earn­ings for the top 5 ex­port in­dus­tries last year were: Gold at US$817.5M, Rice at US$201.0M, Baux­ite at US$102.3M, Sugar at US$48.5M, and Tim­ber at US$35.8M. With 247,302 vis­i­tor ar­rivals in 2017, tourism gen­er­ates at least US$123.6M in di­rect eco­nomic ben­e­fits in Guyana. This makes tourism wor­thy of the spe­cial sup­port and at­ten­tion granted to other key eco­nomic sec­tors.

With the 15% travel tax in place on in­ter­na­tional air­fares, rev­enue from travel di­rectly ben­e­fits the Gov­ern­ment and thus the res­i­dents of Guyana. In ad­di­tion to the tourism tax, the re­lated ex­pen­di­tures have a di­rect eco­nomic im­pact in the ar­eas of do­mes­tic air­fare and ground trans­porta­tion, tourism ac­com­mo­da­tion and tours, food and bev­er­age, and shop­ping. In­di­rect eco­nomic im­pacts in­clude, for ex­am­ple, cap­i­tal in­vest­ments in tourism within all sec­tors that are di­rectly in­volved in the tourism in­dus­try and the do­mes­tic goods and ser­vices pur­chased by the do­mes­tic travel sec­tor. In­duced eco­nomic im­pacts rep­re­sent the wider con­tri­bu­tion of tourism through the ex­pen­di­tures of those who are di­rectly or in­di­rectly em­ployed by the tourism sec­tor. This, along with the fact that trav­el­ing within Guyana is not in­ex­pen­sive, is why the es­ti­mated US$500 per vis­i­tor ex­pen­di­ture is ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive.

For the first nine months of 2018, vis­i­tor ar­rivals to Guyana in­creased 17.46% over 2017. This in­cludes an in­crease in di­as­pora vis­i­ta­tion (3.8%), an in­crease in leisure va­ca­tion travel (23.8%), and in­creases within all of Guyana’s core source mar­kets: US (6.6%), Canada (2%), UK (10.3%), and Ger­many (4.8%). This also in­cludes a marked in­crease in travel from Cuba (86%) for shop­ping and for pro­cess­ing U.S. visas. It is es­ti­mated that the typ­i­cal vis­i­tor from Cuba stays four to six days and spends US$2,000 to US$3,000 per visit on shop­ping pur­chases, lodg­ing, food and other ne­ces­si­ties, re­sult­ing in US$85 mil­lion be­ing gen­er­ated an­nu­ally for Guyana’s GDP from Cubans alone.

Based on his­tor­i­cal trends, there will be at least 500,000 vis­i­tor ar­rivals by 2030. Con­sid­er­ing the growth in in­ter­na­tional tourism ar­rivals in 2018, the an­tic­i­pated con­tin­ued growth with the oil and gas in­dus­try and the in­ter­na­tional growth of the travel and tourism sec­tor in gen­eral, it is pos­si­ble that Guyana will at­tract up­wards of 500,000 vis­i­tors as early as 2025. With the GTA’s fo­cused ef­forts on bring­ing Desti­na­tion Guyana into the global tourism mar­ket­place within its core mar­kets by pro­mot­ing its strengths in authen­tic ad­ven­ture, na­ture-based and cul­tural tourism ex­pe­ri­ences, the av­er­age vis­i­tor ex­pen­di­ture will in­crease as well. The av­er­age ex­pen­di­ture per in­ter­na­tional trav­eler in na­ture-based and ad­ven­ture tourism is US$1,149 per trip, cul­tural her­itage is US$1,319 per trip, and re­spon­si­ble trav­eler is US$1,749 per trip.

With the im­pend­ing growth, the GTA is in­creas­ingly plac­ing more em­pha­sis on prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. In the build up to the im­pend­ing growth, the greater the in­vest­ment in travel and tourism-re­lated prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and in­fra­struc­ture, the greater the tourism sec­tor can con­trib­ute to the eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion that pri­or­i­tizes a ‘green’ agenda.

About the Guyana Tourism Au­thor­ity

The Guyana Tourism Au­thor­ity (GTA), op­er­at­ing un­der the Min­istry of Busi­ness, is a semi-au­ton­o­mous gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ing and pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able tourism in Guyana. Its mis­sion is to de­velop and pro­mote sus­tain­able tourism in Guyana through col­lab­o­ra­tion with sis­ter agen­cies and the tourism pri­vate sec­tor in or­der to max­i­mize lo­cal so­cio-eco­nomic and con­ser­va­tion out­comes and im­prove the vis­i­tors’ ex­pe­ri­ence.

Brian Mullis is the Di­rec­tor of the Guyana Tourism Au­thor­ity.

Brian Mullis

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