Guyana is About to Become a Hospitality Investors Playground
In Conversation With Guyana's Chief Investment Officer: Dr. Peter Ramsaroop
By Nerissa Persaud Founder / Managing Director, Ignite The Human Spark / Hoteliery | March 28, 2021
Guyana - South America's only English-speaking country along the northeastern coast of the Atlantic bordered by Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese neighbours Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil, respectively has become the rise of opportunity to leading world investors and getting a first-class seat at the table of booming investments is alluring and for good reason.
The country often dubbed the epitome of diversity, rich cultural heritage and an eco-tourist playground, has attracted investors attention from around the globe as key stakeholders in the Middle East, China and the Americas secure their bids at the helm of Guyana's developing oil wealth.
This wealth pulsating promise and elevations into the country's infrastructural framework, GDP, National debt eradication and has become the eye of opportunity to hotelier investment pulling in international brands Marriott, Hilton and Radisson Hotel Group (RHG).
Here's a look at my recent interview with Guyana's Chief Investment Officer and CEO at Guyana Office for Foreign and Local Investments, Dr Peter Ramsaroop.
What Will Be the Most Significant Changes We Can Expect to See Coming in the Next Three Quarters for Foreign Investment in Guyana?
The faces of Foreign Investment in Guyana are certainly changing rapidly. Guyana is now a world player in the Oil and Gas Industry, and our economy is growing exponentially; as such, we are seeing a different level of Foreign Investors showing keen interest in exploring opportunities here. Already we see keen interest from a number of Fortune 500 Companies and other massive undertakings entering the Guyana Market. The interest being displayed in all sectors by such companies will only increase over the next year.
Guyana's tourism landscape will also see a significant boost with several internationally branded hotels projects in the pipeline, some of which are scheduled to begin construction over the next few months. The Government of Guyana will also provide support to the industry with numerous projects, including establishing a Hospitality-Tourism Training Institute to train and improve the quality of potential available as we hope to equip thousands of young people with the necessary skills to take up jobs in the sector and raise the bar regionally.
Additionally, the Draft Local Content Policy is at the consultation stages, and hopefully, within a few months, this will be implemented and is expected to play a major role in connecting our locals with foreign investors and investments.
Hospitality Investment has become a hot topic for Guyana's investment; where should we see Guyana five years from now on the hospitality grid?
The Hospitality Industry will change the local landscape of Guyana. Already the level of interest displayed in this industry is intriguing. In 2020, only months after the Government came into office, a decision was taken by His Excellency President Dr Ali to Request a Call for Proposal for the Development of Hotels. This saw approximately 32 Proposals being submitted. To date, 29 MOUs have been signed with potential investors.
Currently, approximately six hotel projects are expected to commence in 2021, with about 1000 rooms. The majority of the proposals received were international branded hotels. The Government aims for at least another 2000-3000 rooms to be available mid to long term, in addition to strengthening this sector, with a Budgeted $185 million in 2021 for the Hospitality-Tourism Training Institute. It should also be noted that significant efforts are being made to establish new air routes to Guyana to increase air connectivity and access to Guyana.
Hospitality has taken a colossal hit following global impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to struggle today, yet hospitality investments in Guyana remain strong. What is the biggest motivation(s) behind this confidence?
In the first half of 2020 alone, Globally, it was estimated that Tourism declined by approximately 65%, resulting in more than 850 million jobs and more than US$ 1.2 Trillion in earnings being lost. Guyana, too, has seen the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Guyana Tourism Authority estimating a loss of direct expenditure within the economy of approximately GY$32.8B in 2020 in export earnings.
Regardless of this, Guyana has seen its visitors' arrival statistics skyrocketing over the last two years and winning 6 International Awards, with at least four being tied to sustainable Tourism. In November 2020, when some parts of the World were cautiously reopening, Guyana observed Tourism Awareness Month under the theme "Destination Guyana, Recover and Rebuild'' - Getting ready to bounce back!" A theme that aptly describes the determination of the Tourism Sector with the support of the Government to recover and rebuild this industry.
In November 2020, 32 Proposals were submitted for the construction of Hotels and Accommodation in Guyana. The majority being internationally branded. Regardless of the effects of COVID-19, our Tourism Product remains intact. The 2020 Emergency National Budget and the 2021 National Budget have both provided means to achieve this, with billions being allocated for the refurbishing and upgrading of tourism transportation infrastructure to the removal of VAT from local Hinterland Travels. As mentioned, a significant preparatory effort is being placed, with monies being allocated to establish a Hospitality-Tourism Institute in Guyana.
The Government of Guyana is also working diligently to ensure the necessary legislation and institutional upgrading is done to safeguard and protect our unique product against environmental degradation. Further solidified by the dedicated Minister's efforts to Tourism, Industry and Commerce, this activity ensures the continued flourishing and merging of our traditional Eco-Tourism Product with the emerging luxury product for savvy business travellers.
The Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), along with its partner the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) and other Private Sector bodies, has over the last year worked diligently to keep Guyana as a Tourism Destination in the thoughts and minds of perspective Tourists; outlining the unique Tourism Product that Guyana Offers in its exotic and sustainable eco-tourism instead of the usual sand and sea product offered by so many.
Together, they have partnered to push the message of 'Stay-At-Home-Now So That You Can Travel Tomorrow' with the hope of encouraging tourists to do their part to end the epidemic so that they can travel to Guyana when it is over. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected the Tourism Industry in Guyana, but through collaborative work and measures, the Government of Guyana, in partnership with the Private Sector and various Tourism bodies, will continue to work together to ensure that our Tourism Industry bounces back and potential maximised.
Which areas of foreign investments best align with the country's economic goals?
The Government of Guyana has long promoted a diversified economy and as such offers a broad cross-section of investment choices, ranging from more traditional industries (such as mining, sugar, rice and timber) to non-traditional sectors (such as aquaculture, agro-processing, fresh fruits and vegetables, light manufacturing, value-added forest products) to services products (tourism and ICT-enabled services).
Additionally, Guyana's new status as an oil producer and exporter has generated unprecedented interest by world players, not just in the oil and gas sector but also across the entire spectrum of productive activity. In keeping with this approach, the Government of Guyana builds on the Fiscal Incentives being offered to potential investors to encourage and promote development across all sectors.
Why is Guyana the future of investment?
The world-class discovery of billions of barrels of oil equivalent resources has propelled Guyana as one of the World's top places to invest. His Excellency President Dr Ali, in his address to the Association of American Chambers of Commerce and Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA), explained that "Guyana is about to become the investment colossus of the Caribbean. It will become the region's most exciting investment destination. Now, therefore is the right time to be doing business in Guyana".
Indeed, scores of Investors worldwide are meeting with Guyanese officials to explore the increasing opportunities that are becoming prominent daily. We are seeing World-Class Companies establishing bases in Guyana. Guyana's development is taking off; already, the Government is undertaking massive infrastructure development to support this growth, new roads and highways, bridges, ferry services, air services etc.
Additionally, the Government is establishing closer relationships with regional and international partners to improve accessibility. This was also reiterated by His Excellency President Dr Irfaan Ali noting the multi-billion-dollar investments into the offshore developments represent "a major business opportunity, especially for businesses involved in this sector and those providing support services."
Dr Ramsaroop, you've long advocated the growth and development of Guyana and its people; what is the Dream for Guyana now?
The future has arrived. We are making firm arrangements. The Dream of all of us in Guyana is to see our nation's economic modernisation continue and the creation of wealth for our people. As our President said, 'we are the number one investment destination of the region.'
Peter R. Ramsaroop is a Guyanese entrepreneur, author, and politician. He was appointed by His Excellency, Dr. Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on 2nd October 2020 as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Guyana Office for Investment. In this role Dr. Ramsaroop will lead efforts in both Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and Local Content Investments (LCI) and serves as Guyana's Chief Investment Officer under the Office of the President of Guyana.
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