Former Minister of Tourism Industry and Commerce now President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed rfaan Ali on Wednesday delivered an address mixed with laughter, reflection, projections and sadness as he identified the destruction of the Guyana Product and Brand which has hurt the tourism and Hospitality sector.
President Irfaan Ali was at the time addressing the Annual Tourism Awards and Gala held at Park Rayne in Georgetown where he spoke of how several tourism-related products and events placed Guyana on the world stage even before oil and gas came into being, were just allowed to be destroyed.
“We need to fix our attitude in this business. I don’t want you to love the government, I would love if you love the government but what I want you to do is love your country. Love your country, promote your country, push your country forward… that is what is needed. we have to get a reality check” President Ali told stakeholders within the tourism sector.
The posture of the president and his remarks were well received with nods of approval and kissing cluttery as he displayed a deep connection to all the areas he spoke about in his 45 mins speech which was at times hard to hear given the chattering of two guests who clearly had too much to drink at their table.
“We started the Rupununi Music Festival, again, a lot of effort, a lot of time, a lot of commitment went into developing that product, where is it today? and then a lot can be said about GuyExpo itself but GuyExpo is a product that was unleashing the potential of Guyana and trust me, a lot of Guyanese came back during GuyExpo… ask the guys in the entertainment industry what was the spending during that period…where is GuyExpo? Building Expo…completely financed by the private sector, in five nights more than 400,000 Guyanese passing through Building Expo, not Guyanese here alone, when we were not known in the region for oil and gas, people were coming for GuyExpo, Building Expo… there was nothing political about any of these events” Stated a saddened President Irfaan Ali.
He said when it comes to the tourism and hospitality sector, stakeholders must first understand the fundamental principle and values of the sector.
“And that fundamental principle and value is that what we are building is Guyana Tourism product, not PPP, not APNU not PNC, not AFC. It is a Guyana Tourism Product and whenever the democratic will of the people comes into play and you have a new vision, it is ok to add to the product, just for God’s sake do not destroy the product. Add as much, broaden as much, strengthen as much, do that, that is within your mandate. We are forever going to be in a cycle like this [ Government change so the initiatives of the previous government must be abandoned] if we don’t understand this” the Head of State passionately stressed.
The natural death of the Wedding Expo and Duck Curry Competition also did not escape the almost emotional speech by the president on Wednesday night.
“We started developing the private sector, the Wedding Expo, people don’t understand the potential of the Wedding Expo. If we get a hundred diaspora weddings in Guyana annually, you know what we are talking about? I am just giving a bare minimum. And then the same people will go overseas and say why we don’t have it, we don’t have it because you keep constantly destroying what we have” President Ali stated.
The Head of State continued…
“The Duck Curry competition, some people went away with the idea that this is King’s stuff, this is Looknauth stuff. They don’t understand that, that became a brand regionally. Guyana Duck Curry Competition became a regional brand, anything you do in life must be led by an individual or a collective so don’t go after the individual, help to build the product” Ali pleaded.
It was against that background that the Guyanese leader announced plans to rejuvenate the Guyana Festival as Guyana seeks to have it as one of many side attractions during the hosting of the CPL finals which the Government of Guyana is in negotiations to have come here.
“We are going to rejuvenate the Guyana Festival, only all or local talent will be on that stage. We will have a regional night, we will have a Caricom food festival as part of it and then we will have the regional carnival. And I want you to understand the regional carnival is a bigger concept. The gap, the time it will take us to catch up with the bigger carnival players is too long, we have to find a way to bridge that gap the fastest we can. So we are working on a concept of getting the number one bands from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia with their followers to come to Guyana for the Caricom Regional Carnival” President Ali disclosed as he went into the projection phase of his speech.
It was also on Wednesday night that Mr. Ali urged stakeholders of the tourism sector to be ahead of the game and think big while ensuring and safeguarding the tourism product and branding from subjection to political maneuvering as it will result in money and time being wasted as well as investments.