Georgetown, Guyana – (March 21, 2018) President David Granger, this morning, said that the protection and preservation of the zone of peace and natural patrimony is the foundation on which sustainable tourism initiatives will grow and thrive in this hemisphere even as he called for the marketing of the Americas as a ‘zone of peace’. The President was at the time delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the XXIV Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities on Tourism at the Marriott Hotel Guyana. The Congress, which is being held under the theme “Connecting the Americas through Sustainable Tourism” from March 21-22, 2018 is jointly coordinated by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Department of Tourism, Ministry of Business.

The Head of State said, “The Americas… possess spectacular attractions. They have more than the traditional Mediterranean and Pacific sun, sand and sea tourism. They are rich in cultural diversity. The immigrants, together with the Indigenous peoples, have woven a fantastic fabric of faiths, festivals and foods. The tourism industries must be protected from the perils of transnational threats such as cybercrime and trafficking in drugs, guns and people. Security cooperation against transnational threats will make our societies safer for our citizens and our visitors.”

Equally, the Head of State said that sustainable tourism requires sustained action to ensure climate resilience. Noting that the severe effects of climate change is a growing challenge, particularly for small islands in the Caribbean, the President said that emphasis on climate resilience is critical to securing the region’s tourism product.

“Rising sea levels are eroding beaches, destroying coral reefs and disrupting marine life – all prime Caribbean tourist attractions are the result of Climate Change. Extreme weather patterns are precipitating droughts and floods, which diminish food supplies and customer services needed by the tourism sector. The increased frequency and ferocity of hurricanes in the Caribbean, as last year’s season of Hurricane Harvey and his sisters can attest, inflicted severe damage to infrastructure – bridges, boats, hotels, roads, resorts and utilities, which are vital to tourism,” he said.

President Granger noted that tourism connects the countries, markets, peoples and services of the hemisphere and can, therefore, contribute to the economic development of the Americas and to the well-being of future generations by becoming more sustainable. In this regard, he noted that the Congress, during its deliberations must seek solutions in ensuring that the Americas can catalyse their tourism potential by increasing annual tourist arrivals.

“The Congress can do so by protecting the Americas’ natural capital by developing a concerted approach to the environment, promoting increased connectivity between tourist destinations by encouraging the development of infrastructure and providing smaller states, particularly the small-island states of the Caribbean, with easier access to capital for investments to build a more resilient industry. Small island states tend to lack the resources to finance their own air and shipping lines so that new routes can be exploited to boost tourist arrivals. Travel needs to be cheaper, easier and faster. Destinations need to be connected efficiently to make tourism more competitive with our parts of the world,” he said.

Minister of Business, with responsibility for Tourism, Mr. Dominic Gaskin, in his remarks, said that the Conference is historical as this is the first time that an OAS Ministerial meeting is being hosted in Guyana. Even as a latecomer to the tourism industry, Minister Gaskin said that the Government sees tourism as a viable means of improving lives and alleviating poverty. The Government, he noted, sees sustainable tourism as the only option for securing long-term benefits.

“This Conference is an important platform for our own development agenda, but more importantly, we understand that the future of tourism in Guyana is integrally connected to the future of tourism in America’s and we are keen to play a part in developing the bigger picture. We expect that through dialogue we will discover common challenges, learn useful lessons and identify opportunities for greater cooperation in tourism between member states at both the public and private sector levels. Guyana looks forward to improving and increasing partnerships for the promotion and expansion of tourism. It is also my hope that our country can benefit from more and better air connections. Additionally, we would like to expand and enhance the ranger of hinterland community-based tourism projects currently existing in our country and we will, therefore, be paying close attention to the examples of other countries in this regard,” he said.

Ms. Kim Osborne, Executive Secretary for Integrated Development at the OAS, in her remarks, said that the warmth and charm of the Guyanese people, the rich cultural heritage and enchanting natural environment will undoubtedly position Guyana, among the best emerging destinations in the Americas. Sge said that with Guyana taking the bold step to host the Congress, which will contribute to the hemisphere’s quest to acquire a deeper understanding of the potential of this sector and its ability to have a positive impact on the lives and livelihoods, this country, as a Caribbean country in South America, is perhaps the ideal location to deliberate on issues of connectivity within the Americas.

“The tourism sector is for us, in the Organization of American States, a catalyst for collaboration and cooperation and a mechanism to better connect the Americas. I take this opportunity to applaud Minister Gaskin and Guyana’s leadership in the Inter-American Committee on Tourism in advancing the case of sustainable tourism as a credible contributor to sustainable development in the Americas. I believe that this is indeed a proud moment for Guyana and an opportunity to highlight the country’s emergence as a tourism destination, and its embrace of sustainable tourism activities, which reaffirm the slogan, “Guyana – South America Undiscovered”,” she said.

The participants are drawn from the CARICOM States, South America, North America and Latin America.

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