Guyana Gift and Craft Show
Souvenir sales lag with low tourist turnout By Nicosia Smith
Stabroek News
April 5, 2007

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Souvenir sales lagged at the first Guyana Gift and Craft Show and craft producers voiced their disappointment at the low tourist turnout.

According to reports, up to Saturday the number of visitors was hardly sufficient to make a success of the many events being held in the city during this Cricket World Cup period.

On Saturday evening Stabroek News visited the Guyana Gift and Craft Show at the National Exhibition Site, Sophia which opened on Thursday evening and ended on Sunday to speak with exhibitors.

Artist Josefa Tamayo told Stabroek News that the sales were not "so luxurious" and described the show as "the land of eating and drinking" since in her view many of the visitors at the craft show showed a preference to snack rather than buy art. Tamayo herself was having a snack when this reporter interviewed her.

The sales for the hand painted bags were good, said Tamayo, adding that buyers chose "useful things" like the bags, instead of the souvenir items on sale. Nevertheless, a few necklaces at the booth were sold, but not any of the decorative plates and small paintings at the time of the interview.

"I am very disappointed," said Tamayo, noting that there was the hope that a lot of tourists would have attended the show, but there were "very few foreigners. . . I thought that a lot of souvenir clientele would be here."

In this artist's view, the majority of the visitors to her booth were locals and overseas-based Guyanese. Tamayo was exhibiting under the banner 'Leather, Clay, Wood' and some 10 artists were exhibiting under this banner in the main auditorium.

Leather craft producer Stanley Haynes of Stanley Masterpiece Craft from Linden had some good responses to his leather bags and sold a few pieces. Haynes confessed that prior to the show a large number of his pieces were sold and he pulled a few pieces together for the event. The leather sandals from sheep and other skins also received a good response, he said. Haynes noted that the booth had a few foreign visitors and during the interview, an Asian tourist bought key rings made from cow skins depicting the Guyana map.

"There is some degree of satisfaction," according to Haynes, although the response did not meet his expectation.

St. Cuthbert's Mission craft producer Ruth Shuman, who has practised the craft since 1981 brought several items made from tibisiri including baskets, table trays, floor mats, mosquito brushes, skirts and leather pieces. Among the items sold by this craft producer were tibisiri table trays among other small items. "I come to showcase and take orders," said Shuman, speaking of her goal at the show, but added that she was not "really happy" since she expected more sales.

Shuman's participation at the show was made possible through the Caribbean African Self-Reliance International group at 56 Main and New Market streets, which seeks to assist women in outlying areas. This body, through funding from its Canadian counterparts, funded 20 craft producers and sponsorship included booth fees, transportation cost and assistance with accommodation.

A sales clerk retailing tie-dyed and batik clothing admitted that sales were slow, noting that "most people will look at the price" or take a business card. The sales clerk admitted that her designing agency wanted to showcase their items and not necessarily to retail. The tie-dyed, two-tone pieces along with the batik designs got a lot of attention, said the sales clerk. On Thursday, the opening night, "we had a few pieces sold," noted the clerk. There were some credit card shoppers but these could not be accommodated due to the lack of facilities to do so. Among the admirers were foreigners and locals who were fascinated with the combination of colours.

All in all, this clerk said, she was not disappointed and expected the response she received.

One exhibitor, who did not wish to be named, told Stabroek News that she assisted in marketing the show by distributing flyers at various city hotels that are hosting CWC officials and the hotels promised to distribute them to the guests. But her main concern was the lack of a shuttle service to the National Exhibition Site, Sophia, for tourists who would have liked to attend the show.

The Guyana Gift and Craft Show was held by the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce in collaboration with the Guyana Office for Investment and the private sector.

The aim was to showcase local craft and to give craft producers a platform to make international connections that can lead to wholesale orders.