Regions join in seeking COVID relief for Tourism Sector

—as Minister Walrond pursues regional effort for national response

On Tuesday, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Hon. Oneidge Walrond and Director-General of the Department of Tourism, Mr. Donald Sinclair, met virtually with representatives from Regional Tourism Committees in Guyana.

The meeting was held to assess the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on tourism in all administrative regions and to craft comprehensive solutions on the way forward.

Region Tw0, tourism representatives, Ms. Maria Lord-Lewis and Mr. Hugh Peru, reported that occupancies of the hotels, resorts and guest houses have significantly declined. Only 25-30 percent have been occupied, compared to 90 percent occupancy in July 2019.

Region Ten, which has a total of 32 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of August 15, reported to the Minister and other stakeholders, that the tourism sector employs 169 employees in the region, of that about one third, have been laid off, since the pandemic.

“A total of 52 employees were laid off by service providers due to restrictions and reduced customers,” General Secretary of Region Ten Tourism Committee, Mr. Adrian Boston said.

While several businesses in Region Four have sought to keep their employees on board, Chairperson of the East Bank Demerara Tourism Working Group, Ms. Carol Webster, said having to invest monies for COVID-19 sanitisation protocols, while customers have decreased has only led to more loss in revenue.

“Businesses indicated that they were in the red for 2-3 months because they opted to keep their staff. That was the biggest concern, not letting your staff go,” Ms. Webster said.

She added that “a major source of that revenue has been curtailed, while the cost has significantly increased, in terms of the masks, the [hand]washing stations, sanitising [and] the most frequent disinfecting. Because even though patrons are not staying-because their taking away-you still have to maintain the sanitising for the areas for them to place their order.”

Other Regional representatives, also reported low occupancy levels, revenue declines and staff dismissal, as well as, cancellation of events due to the pandemic. They joined in calling for relief and waivers of some taxes and water and electricity relief for tourism services, in hopes that the Ministry fulfils promises that the APNU+AFC Administration failed to deliver.

Minster Waldron told representatives that the meeting was a very important step in assessing the situation and providing sound and inclusive plans, to move forward. She also assured the stakeholders that the administration is committed to assisting.

“This Government is committed to supporting your response and recovery from the pandemic with tangible assistance, which includes financial help,” Minister Walrondsaid.

“I can assure you that this will be significantly considered, as Government finalises its plans for a national response to the recovery and development of the sector,” she further assured.

Director-General of the Department of Tourism, Donald Sinclair, added that the Ministry is currently formulating a collaborative strategy, with the Ministry of Health, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), and several other stakeholders.

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