GUYANA: Around 66% of tourism workers affected by fallout from COVID-19 – President

President Infaan Ali

President Irfaan Ali today said that around 30% of those employed in the tourism sector have lost their jobs and another 36% had been furloughed or placed on unpaid leave as a result of the fallout from COVID-19.

A statement commemorating World Tourism Day follows:

Statement by President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali  On the Occasion of World Tourism Day 2020 – (September 27, 2020)

Fellow Guyanese, it is with great pleasure that I bring to you greetings in recognition of World Tourism Day 2020, which is being celebrated under the theme “Tourism and Rural Development”.         

Today, we join the rest of the world to recognise the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities, while at the same time, preserving cultural and natural heritage around the world.

This year’s theme is all the more relevant to Guyana as we have traditionally placed high regard on the celebration of our unique natural and cultural heritage and the preservation of our environment.

This year, the world over has grappled with the effects of COVID-19, which has caused significant disruptions in the global economy. By the end of the first quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had brought international travel to an abrupt halt and significantly impacted the tourism industry.

For many developed and developing countries, like Guyana, the tourism sector is a major source of employment, government revenue and foreign exchange earnings.

The tourism sector continues to be one of the hardest-hit by the outbreak of COVID-19. By April 2020, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) reported that the sector lost an estimated 46 percent of its total revenue over a six-month period in contrast to the revenue earned for the same period in 2019. In terms of employment, an estimated 30 percent of those employed in our tourism sector have lost their jobs, and an additional 36 percent had been furloughed or placed on unpaid leave.

Notwithstanding, we are a resilient people, and my Government is committed to supporting all stakeholders through a very critical recovery process. The Guyana Tourism Authority continues with their marketing efforts to promote nature, adventure and eco-tourism both locally and internationally and with the support of the Private Sector, we have no doubt that this will allow the sector to rebound with strengthened resolve and greater results.

My Government recognises the important role that we will play in this process, as such, in keeping with our manifesto promise, we have introduced a series of measures in the Emergency Budget, which were crafted to bolster the sector’s recovery process; this includes the reversal of VAT on hinterland travel and special incentives for new hotels and businesses.

These are by no means an exhaustive list of measures; we will also implement policies to strengthen and grow the workforce in the Tourism sector to cater to the influx of visitors expected as a result of the focused marketing as well as the emergence of the oil and gas sector. This will also help to create more opportunities, which will lead to the economic empowerment of men, women and youth in rural communities.

Over the last two years, Guyana recorded its highest visitor arrivals, during which time the destination also won six (6) International Awards (four of which were tied to sustainable tourism); we therefore resolve to build on that by supporting from a policy level, the continued promotion of our community–led and owned experiences.

Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, it is important for the sector to regroup. We, therefore, have an opportunity to transform our approach to the continued development of the sector to ensure a balance between people, nature, and the climate. We are confident that over the next few years, our country will witness a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient development of the Tourism Sector.

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