Remarks to be delivered by H.E Safraaz Ahmad Shadood Ambassador of Guyana to Qatar at the Eleventh Session of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM)
27-29 June 2022
Theme: The Role of Local Communities in Tourism Development
On behalf of the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, I extend warm greetings to all of you and take this opportunity to express appreciation to the Government and people of Azerbaijan for the warm hospitality extended to me since my arrival in beautiful Baku. I also commend the Government of Azerbaijan and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the excellent arrangements put in place for the successful hosting of this meeting.
Guyana welcomes the convening of this meeting which provides an important opportunity for OIC Member States to discuss the development and promotion of our culture and heritage under the theme “The Role of Local Communities in Tourism Development”. Tourism and related services are key contributors to the economy of many of our countries, and it is therefore important for us to discuss how we can strengthen cooperation within the organization to develop and foster deeper intra-OIC tourism.
As the world reopens and we work on reintroducing our respective tourism products to travelers in the context of the changes occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical for us to work together to strengthen and maintain safe and sustainable tourism destinations. To this end, I must underscore the role that local communities can and should play, given their proximity to the tourism products that are being offered.
For its part, the Government of Guyana continues to engage the local communities, particularly in the eco-tourism sector, which is a significant part of our tourism industry. With a diversity of wildlife, pristine rainforests and vast savannahs, Guyana has developed several eco-tourist locations which are community-led and owned. These establishments, primarily owned and operated by Indigenous communities, continue to draw international attention to Destination Guyana and are a key part of our sustainable eco-tourism sector. Guyana has been awarded several international accolades including the World’s #1 Best of Ecotourism; 1st for the – Welcome back to Nature Video at the Golden City Gate Awards and #1 Best in Sustainable Tourism at the LATA Achievement Awards. This level of promotion has led to a significant increase in travelers.
With Destination Guyana becoming increasingly attractive, the Government of Guyana is keen to maximize the socio-economic benefits of a sustainable brand of tourism for these local communities while simultaneously preserving their traditions, culture and heritage.
Guyana is on the cusp of tremendous economic transformation with tourism investments alone projected to be US$35M by 2028. The Government of Guyana is intent on widening its tourism brand and the development of Muslim-Friendly Tourism (MFT) is part of that vision. In fact, Guyana’s tourism product is well aligned with many of the basic principles of Islam including inclusivity, peace, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Further, with Islam being one of the main religions in Guyana, Islamic traditions and principles are well known, celebrated and appreciated across the country. These realities present us with a good opportunity to work with the local Muslim communities to build on the foundations that we already have which are conducive to the growth of Muslim-Friendly Tourism in Guyana. We would be happy to learn from the experiences of other OIC Member States to this end. The development of this brand of tourism also aligns with the vision of my President, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, for the creation of a One Guyana, where there is deep intercultural understanding in our multicultural society, where inclusivity characterizes relations among citizens and the government, and where everyone lives in unity and harmony.
The Government of Guyana is therefore prepared to ensure that Destination Guyana is also welcoming of the Muslim traveler. To this end, we are open to investors incorporating Muslim-friendly infrastructure into their construction plans for hotels and restaurants to feature amenities such as prayer rooms and Qibla signage. Mechanisms are already in place to make it standard for service providers, businesses and all tourism-related agencies to be certified Halal. Attention will also be placed on providing facilities for ablution, providing gender-sensitive recreational spaces as well as facilities for the fulfilment of religious obligations. These measures would also contribute to greater understanding among non-Muslims of the values and traditions of Islam.
I take this this opportunity to affirm the Strategic Roadmap for Development of Islamic Tourism in OIC Member States and underscore that funding for projects to aid capacity development, marketing and promotion both at the national and regional levels are key to its full implementation.
Allow me to conclude by commending the OIC City of Tourism Award initiative which I believe lends to the further development of the chosen cities. Additionally, the initiative has the potential to foster greater collaboration among Member States as they learn from the experiences of the Awardees on the measures employed to improve Muslim-Friendly Tourism.
Please be assured of Guyana’s unwavering commitment to the OIC’s efforts for broadening the availability of Muslim-Friendly Tourism products across the world.
I thank you.