(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 11 July 2010)
I love to travel. I love going to places I have never been before and spend my time in these places exploring the culture and history, eating the food the locals eat and, of course, relaxing. I do like to stay in nice places, but I rarely spend much time at all in the hotel room.
On my trips to Guyana, I have stayed at the Pegasus or with family. My time spent in the hotel room at the Pegasus has always been short because there was always somewhere to go and something to do. I have not been back to Guyana since the Princess (Buddy’s) was built, but I have heard good things about it.
It is not that I think building a Marriott in Guyana is a bad thing. I actually like the idea. It is the rationale being given for building the hotel that has me somewhat bewildered.
According to a Kaieteur News article from July 8 entitled, “Jagdeo says Princess, Pegasus not good enough for tourism,” President Jagdeo said of these two hotels, “they are not of the quality you would want if you are promoting tourism and other travel.”
The issue I have with this statement is this, if one is looking to promote tourism and travel in Guyana, there are other much more pressing concerns that should be considered before building another hotel. It is not the hotel situation that is keeping people – both tourists and Diaspora – from travelling to Guyana. There are other pressing reasons.
What are some of these reasons? Just to name a few, there is the crime, the garbage in the streets, the fact that police shoot people who are not criminals, the unreliable electricity, the extrajudicial killings, and my all-time favourite reason – when catching a taxi from the airport to Georgetown you wonder if you or someone on the street will die while the taxi driver drives on both sides of the road at super high speeds.
I am quite sure tourists would gladly stay at the Pegasus or Princess if all these other issues were rectified. In fact, if all these other issues were resolved, I think tourists and Diaspora would flood into Guyana. Adding a Marriott to the list of hotels in Guyana will not bring tourists in any quicker if the issues I’ve listed are still problems by the time the Marriott opens its doors.
When I visit Guyana, I only need a hotel room to get some sleep – if I sleep. I will spend most of my time finding adventures, eating all the food I can find, drinking rum, talking with friends and family, immersing myself in the culture I married into 25 years ago and loving every moment not spent in a hotel room.
As a woman, another concern I have is the attitude toward women in Guyana. When I want to do something, whether it is going for a long walk or a night out on the town, I do not like to be constrained by fear for my safety. The sad fact is that this fear is probably felt by Guyanese women more than female tourists, but this is yet another issue that should be addressed before building another hotel.
In fact, it would be nice if other national issues were addressed before the building of another hotel. For example, the flooding issue is never-ending. Every year seems to bring “above normal rainfall” and no one has yet figured out how to keep the Guyanese people high and dry. It seems by now someone would realise that “above normal rainfall” is the new normal.
Moreover, why worry about the cleaning up the garbage just to attract tourists? It is far better to care that the garbage is cleaned up for those who walk and drive the streets every day.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I suppose this notion could apply to all the issues I listed on how to attract tourists.
When it comes to the crime, the garbage in the streets, the fact that police shoot people who are not criminals, the unreliable electricity, the extrajudicial killings and reckless driving, why not fix it for the people of Guyana instead of the tourist?
I am being presumptuous. The stated goal was just to build a Marriott because the Pegasus and Princess are not good enough. I am quite sure that goal will make someone happy, some investor(s). It really is audacious of me to think it would be nice to spread some of that happiness around to the people.
Then again, how happy could an investor be when no tourists come to stay in the new hotel because the crime, the garbage in the streets, the fact that police shoot people who are not criminals, the unreliable electricity, the extrajudicial killings and reckless driving are still keeping them away?
Silly me, I am sure someone has already thought through all of this. In fact, maybe an unhappy investor is the real goal.