Tourism: higher profits in Guyana To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
November 21, 2001

Reference is made to the Editorial in the Barbados Advocate of Friday 2nd November 2001, which appeared under the headline "Lifeline - fate lies in tourism". This was a timely reminder both to the vast majority of Barbadians who support the national effort to safe-guard our most important industry; and the seemingly tiny, but vocal minority who have been accessing the local talk-shows and the letter columns in the press with criticisms of the 30.5 million dollar rescue package for the industry - that Barbados' economic salvation rests with the future of tourism.

In an article published in the press in Guyana last week, Prof Norman Girvan, the Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States, reminded readers that tourism is the most important single industry to the Caribbean region. Both in terms of contribution to GDP and as an employer of labour, tourism is growing in importance, while agriculture, manufacturing and mining are in relative decline. Globally, tourism grew at a healthy seven percent in 2000. But in 2001, in the face of the global economic slow-down, growth was projected to halve. Events of September 11th will further depress expansion to approximately two percent in the year.

The critical fact is that tourism is so resilient that on a global basis, it will continue to grow despite the global slow-down and the aftermath of events in New York and Washington on September 11th.

This fact should give Barbados' tourist industry reason for pause. Short term responses to the impending crisis were taken in a very timely fashion and the result as evidenced by the advent of the US Airways scheduled air service, Condor, the British Airways Concorde, planned calls by new cruise ships this winter and the better than expected tourist arrivals in late October and early November are encouraging. However, the industry should now embark on longer term planning to embrace investment, creative marketing, diversification and greater integration of locally produced goods and services. The recent visit of a Guyanese tourism promotion team to Barbados on a mission to increase visitor numbers and promote investment opportunities in the fledgling tourist industry in Guyana may be timely.

As far back as the mid-1950's, the British Guiana government engaged the services of a Mr. Ewen, a tourism expert from Montego Bay in Jamaica to advise on the establishment of a tourist industry in the then colony. He submitted a report that stressed that the riverain areas and interior are far more suited to tourism than the coastal regions. His conclusion was that Guyana offers a diversity ranging from historical, to eco-tourism sites, to the wind-swept Number 63 beach at the mouth of the Corentyne River, where he identified the mile long beach of naturally compacted sand as being ideal for sports such as land-yachting and go-kart racing.

The notion of Guyana attracting large numbers of tourists is not far-fetched. It will cater to a completely different market segment than the Eastern Caribbean islands. Its attractiveness lies in its historical sites, distinctive cultures, sites such as Kaiteur Falls and Iwokrama Rain Forest, cultural traditions, flora, fauna and eco-tourism sites.

The future of Caribbean tourism could lie in the accentuation of its potential for diversity. It is conceivable that Guyana's tourism could present great opportunities for integration with the Barbados product and investment by Barbadian entrepreneurs. This has the potential to strengthen the Barbados tourist industry by bringing diversity; increased demand for airlift as Barbados is the natural transit point to Guyana; innovation of multi-center packages; entry into the eco-tourism and cultural tourism markets; and diversification of the sport and conventional tourism infrastructure and product.

As a general rule, leisure tourism as practised in Barbados requires high capital investment. Because the industry is so competitive, margins are slim and therefore investors must seek the benefit of economies of scale. Eco, cultural and sport tourism establishments envisioned for Guyana are traditionally smaller, less capital intensive and they will generate significantly higher profit margins. In essence, they offer investment opportunities that are well within the scope of Barbadian investors.

It is instructive that a South African group that is in discussion with the Guyana government to build the Georgetown to Brasil road, has identified the potential of Guyana to attract three hundred thousand stop-over visitors per year to eco-tourism related collateral projects which they plan to implement if they secure the contrast to construct the road.
Wilton A. Angoy
St. Michael,