Guyana’s president opens OAS tourism conference in Guyana – By Ray Chickrie

Guyana president opens OAS tourism conference

By Ray Chickrie – Caribbean News Now contributor

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Guyana is the gateway to Latin America, and is the only English-speaking country in South America, President David Granger said in his opening address to the Organisation of American States (OAS) ministerial tourism conference, which opened in Georgetown on Wednesday. Granger also reaffirmed March 21 as International Day of Forest, an affirmation that Guyana is serious in becoming a “green state.”     

Guyana is hoping to use future oil and gas revenue to diversify its economy and especially to grow its tourism industry. Emphasis is being put in building air, land and maritime infrastructure.

The 24th Inter-American Congress is bringing together ministers and high-level authorities of tourism of the Americas from March 21-22 in Guyana.

It will be the first ever high level OAS meeting in that country. The meeting’s theme will be “Connecting the Americas through Sustainable Tourism”, said an OAS press statement.

Permanent representative of Guyana to the OAS, Riyad Insanally, said, “It’s a historic occasion for Guyana. We look forward with pleasure and anticipation to welcome you all to Guyana. For us, sustainable tourism is critical for our development as a nation.”

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro highlighted, “Tourism can significantly expand economic opportunities for our citizens. It should be sustainable, ensuring that the economic, social, cultural and environmental elements are fully respected.”

Guyana wants to use the conference as a springboard to build synergies among stakeholders of the tourism industry – private and public sectors, and experts within the region to develop its tourism industry.

Besides representatives from OAS countries, stakeholders in the tourism industry also participated. The aviation sector, travel companies, the Guyana Tourism Board, and hotels also showcased their products. Copa Airlines vice president of marketing, Christophe Didier; Kayla Reece of Fly Jamaica; and Ivan Lopez Villalba gave presentations.

The aviation sector is growing rapidly in Guyana and the main port of entry, the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), will complete its first phase of US$150 million expansion and modernization. There are also plans to turn the frontier airstrip at Lethem into an international regional airport.

The Eugene Correia International Airport shared its 15-year plan at the conference. In the near future, the airport also plans to extend the runway to accommodate larger aircraft and more passengers. The terminal is already too small and will have to triple in size to accommodate projected growth for the next two decades.

Henry MacDonald, the former permanent representative of Suriname to the UN, is attending as an observer and president of the World Development Foundation (WDF), an NGO with its headquarters in New York and its first regional office in Paramaribo, Suriname, to focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.

WDF has been keen in promoting the Guiana Shield region as an upcoming and very promising sustainable tourism venture for adventure, Amazonian, forestry and green fanatics. The former diplomat is using his presence in Georgetown to introduce this idea to various governments, businesses and NGOs present in Georgetown.

Suriname being represented at the conference by Liselle Blankendall, charge d’affaires at the embassy of Suriname in Guyana. Suriname has been invited to join the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to enjoy the benefits and services of the group.

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