Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Reception in observance of World Tourism Day
September 26, 2022
Honorable Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Waldron,
Honorable Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson, Jr.,
Head of the Guyana Tourism Authority, Kamrul Baksh,
President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana, Harrinand (Ralph) Persaud,
Members of the Government;
Members of the Opposition;
Members of the Private Sector and Civil Society;
All those who love to tour this beautiful country – “the land of many waters!”
Good Evening, everyone!! And, welcome to the U.S. Embassy’s celebration of World Tourism Day 2022!
It is my great pleasure to host this evening’s reception with key members of the government, private sector, and civil society to celebrate the tourism and hospitality industries in Guyana, but also to “Rethink Tourism.” Yes – “Rethinking Tourism” is the theme for this year’s celebrations which are meant to highlight the increasingly important role that tourism is playing around the globe as a crucial pillar of development. Many of you here tonight have already had to rethink this important sector as you managed your businesses during the pandemic. You had to make major changes to your operations in order to stay in business. Sadly, many restaurants, guest houses, and shops did not make it. When I look around this patio tonight, I see the faces of so many hard-working people who did make it, but I know that many of you struggled during the last two years. It was your creativity, your initiative and your drive that allowed you to adapt and survive.
I applaud the Minister and her team who are encouraging that same creativity, initiative and drive – that passion – to transform this important economic sector to take tourism and hospitality in Guyana to the next level. And, due to lifting of COVID restrictions, combined with the tremendous economic boom here, it looks like there will be plenty of visitors coming to Guyana. According to government statistics, Guyana has already witnessed a 103 percent increase in visitor arrivals between January and May of this year, with 50,000 more people visiting Guyana than last year. Some of the tens of thousands in additional visitors are either here or expected to come to Guyana to watch Guyana play – or should I say WIN! – the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) finals! Go Amazon Warriors!! Also, this year, Guyana has been visited by HBO, National Geographic, and adventurers Dylan Efron and Alex Honnold who all highlighted Guyana’s amazing land, people, culture, and food, showcasing the incredible tourism opportunities here.
And, after this weekend of spectacular cricket at the National Stadium, delicious food at the food festival on Main Street, and wonderful Amerindian heritage events, including at St. Cutbert’s Village, there is no doubt that Guyana’s tourism doors are opening up.
Guyana’s birds, its many waters, its waterfalls, its savannahs, its giants – like river otters and anteaters and jaguars – all provide plenty to see and experience. Kaieteur Falls is unforgettably majestic. The Rupununi is reliably relaxing – except when you’re at a rodeo or round-up. And, whether you travel the Essequibo, the Pomeroon or the Mahaica Rivers, or any of Guyana’s many waters, you will escape into a stunning, nearly untouched paradise full of unique wildlife. Similarly, there are sights right here in Georgetown – the markets, the sea wall, the churches, museums, and memorials – all of which offer a glimpse into Guyana’s rich history as well as new experiences and exciting tourism opportunities.
And, while I’m not a famous photographer like Dylan Efron or a famous mountain climber like Alex Honnold, I do love to travel around Guyana just like them. And, I’m incredibly lucky that I have been able to travel to each region at least twice and to see so much of this beautiful land and to meet so many of the wonderful people who work very hard to make Guyana such a wonderful and welcoming country. Whether it’s a local tour operator offering a unique service, a group of young Guyanese leaders like the Embassy’s Youth Action Network organizing beach cleanups, or U.S. companies whose employees are supporting local entrepreneurs, lodges, and hotels with their business, I am proud to be in such great company.
To all of you who make Guyana an incredible place to visit, I want to offer my thanks. I also want to encourage you to continue developing your products, and to consider how you can help bring even more development to the sector at a time when you have thousands of business visitors who could easily be enticed to become tourists if the right modernization occurs to avoid missing out on market opportunities. According to the World Bank, in 2019 the global tourism sector was valued at $9 trillion USD and accounted for over 10% of global GDP. With an average expenditure of $1,060 USD per visitor in Guyana, the possibilities to grow this market are endless. As such, I challenge you to “Rethink Tourism.”
I “Rethink Tourism” often as I meet with a U.S. business travelers, foreign visitors and diaspora – many who have shared with me their ideas for modernization. Most revolve around enabling online access to products and information, lowering the high prices of excursions, and facilitating easier payment systems. Most of these are also on the minds of many Guyanese. So, what are some ideas to modernize that we could pursue together? Here are a few to consider:
- Could airlines flying to Kaieteur Falls offer online booking? Could airlines work together to fill planes to ensure individuals or small groups are also able to see the majesty of Kaieteur Falls? Is there a way for costs to become more affordable to ensure as many Guyanese as possible can enjoy this jaw dropping and stunning experience?
- How about online booking for restaurants, tourism services and events? Tickets to everything from concerts to – yes – cricket matches – could be offered online. Many tourists note that the only way to book things in Guyana is via WhatsApp, and to find the right WhatsApp is not easy. Perhaps even ferry slots for cars could be booked in advance, allowing for more reliable transportation and vacation planning. Tourists have also recommended that lodges detail clear prices for services, including side tours and food. These ideas for modernization wouldn’t just benefit foreign tourists, they would directly benefit Guyanese. And the technology is easy, in existence, and ready to deploy.
- Also, how about offering more Guyanese products that appeal to tourists at places like the airports, local hotels, and elsewhere? For example, it’s cricket season and many tourists would like to share the excitement of supporting the Amazon Warriors – maybe buy a tee-shirt or a flag. Could these items even be offered for sale at the airport duty free? The Embassy supports a lot of local entrepreneurs and we are more than happy to collaborate and offer insights on the marketing of their products. If even half of the 250,000 projected travelers spent $5,000 or $10,000 Guyana dollars on a Warriors jersey, Banks ballcap, or locally-made chocolate at duty free you could easily eclipse a million Guyana dollars.
And when it comes time to pay for experiences, products, or even just dinner, is it possible to have a greater use of online payment platforms, credit cards, or even mobile money? If you book a tour or rum tasting, for example, – one of my favorites -, could payment be offered on-line for the tourist who will absolutely book more activities, if both booking and paying are made easy?
- These are just a few of the suggestions for modernization that I have heard in my travels around the country. And, I would be remiss not to mention the importance of creating a welcoming environment for all tourists, regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation. In the U.S., for example, the buying power of LGBTQ+ individuals has reached one trillion dollars. It would be a shame not to tap into the incredible potential this market has to offer.
So, the private sector and destination communities will undoubtedly also offer their own ideas to encourage greater development of the tourism sector, be it improving safety standards at tourist sites and in vehicles; reducing trash at tour destinations; or linking products from across sectors to the tourism market.
They will also likely stress the importance of physical infrastructure and the availability of quality health care as being crucial to this sector. I know there are major projects in the works to improve the roads, bridges, and airports as well as to improve the provision of quality health care. I applaud these efforts, and while I do love a good adventure, I look forward to the day when I can drive to Iwokrama or Lethem a bit faster and maybe with a few less bumps in the road!
So, tonight, please enjoy the company, but also the local crafts that we are displaying as well as the videos that we have prepared with the help of the Ministry. In fact, you may see yourself in some of the photos and you will definitely see members of the hard-working U.S. embassy team (who I thank for organizing this event tonight) – folks who are both proud to work with you and thrilled to travel around this beautiful nation!
Thank you again for coming tonight, for making Guyana such a welcoming destination for tourists, and for your openness to “Rethink Tourism” as we work together to further develop Guyana’s tourism industry for the benefit of all.
Thank you!! And, Go Amazon Warriors!!