Guyana wins big in tourism despite COVID-19 pandemic

As unprecedented as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it has made one thing abundantly clear – the demand for travel and tourism will continue to grow until it can be met, and destination health and sanitation will become the new norm and standard by which travel decisions are made.

As a result of this growing demand, and maintaining Guyana’s position as a top sustainable tourism destination, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) has implemented a continuous coordinated approach in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has since effectively supported and increased the resiliency of the tourism sector throughout 2020. As such, here are some of the most significant achievements of the GTA.

Licensing and inspections

The GTA has recognised the increased level of commitment by many businesses who have since taken advantage of the waiver of licensing and training fees during this period. It is unquestionable that increased support is needed as Guyana’s tourism sector safely reopens to travellers in 2021. As such, the GTA Board has approved the extension of the waiver policy until March 31, 2021. As a reminder, the policy changes are:

● Waiver of ALL GTA Application and Licensing Fees for tourism businesses (Tourism Accommodation Establishments (Hotels, Inns, Apartments and Guesthouses), Interior Lodges and Resorts, Tour Operators and DMCs) and Tourist Guides until March 31, 2021.

● Waiver of Registration fees for GTA-led training programmes until March 31, 2021.

● 50% subsidised training fee for First Aid Training led by recognised training institutions until March 31, 2021.

As a result of these reductions in fees in 2020, there was a marked increase in tourism businesses seeking to become officially licenced. To date, 25 tourism businesses and 12 tourist guides have been officially licenced with the GTA – making it the highest compliance rate for a calendar year.

An additional 186 tourism businesses and 98 tourist guides are actively in the licensing process.

The inspection efforts provided by the GTA supported the tourism businesses with their preparation for safe reopening through the 2-step process which entails:

● Submission of the business’ written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to the GTA for a desk review.

● On-site inspection of businesses to verify the implementation of the SOPs and conditional approval by the GTA.

These on-site inspections are conducted by the GTA teamwith a representative from the Ministry of Health. Given the Authority’s current role and procedure, a separate inspection by the Ministry of Health is not required for reopening of tourism businesses. Since the implementation of this 2-step conditional approval process, 11 tourism establishments have been granted their official letters of conditional approval for reopening. It is noteworthy to mention that the conditional approval process and the subsequent listing of tourism as an essential service would not have been possible without the partnership with the National COVID-19 Taskforce.