As part of its efforts to make sustainable tourism, the new frontier industry in the country, the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) is lobbying the Government for concessions as it seeks to become an export industry.Business Minister Haimraj Rajkumar (middle) poses with former Business Minister Dominic Gaskin, President of THAG Mitra Ramkumar, Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) Brian Mullis and THAG executive member Andrea de Caires at Cara Lodge where the welcome reception was held on Friday eveningThis request was made by President of THAG, Mitra Ramkumar, on Friday evening during a welcome reception held by the new Business Minister, who has responsibility for tourism, Haimraj Rajkumar.According to Ramkumar, the Tourism Association, in recent times, had to rewrite the narrative about sustainable tourism in order to convince policymakers of the emergence of experiential tourism, that is, travel that incorporates an active lifestyle, the need to reconnect to nature and the demand for authenticity.“We endured a lot of hard years of lobbying and will continue to do this [for development of industry in Guyana],” he posited, adding that they have lobbied for a Tourism Director with the necessary skill set to lead the industry and were successful. The fruits of this, Ramkumar said, has already been seen with Guyana recently being named the number one eco-tourism destination in the world.Back in March, Guyana copped the first ever “Best of Ecotourism” award at the second annual “Best of Top 100” in Berlin, Germany – putting the country ahead of well-known and experienced eco-tourism destinations like Sierra Gorda in Mexico, Tmatboey in Cambodia and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.The second annual “Best of Top 100” awards is a selection of the finest top 100 destinations selected by a panel of experts who review sustainability success stories submitted by destinations worldwide.According to the President of THAG, this can be credited to former Tourism Minister, Dominic Gaskin, who listened to the Private Sector and created an enabling environment to allow for such development in the sector.To this end, Ramkumar asserted that they will continue, as stakeholders, to appeal for tourism to be truly recognised as an export industry. It was previously stated that Guyana’s tourism industry has the potential of becoming the third largest export industry in the country after gold and rice.“So we appeal for this industry to be granted the same concessions as every other industry. So this means, it’s either zero tax or a reduced, at minimum, rate of tax,” Ramkumar contended.He went on to play on Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s charge that Guyana needs to diversify its economy and make it robust to shocks from commodity prices. According to the President of THAG, the rice and gold industries are both vulnerable to shocks from commodity prices, and the same goes for the much-anticipated impending oil and gas sector.However, he pointed out that the oil and tourism sectors mesh well and complement each other.“One is an industry that is highly capitalised and highly skilled while tourism is an industry that is labour intensive and that will create employment for the vulnerable. So these two industries need each other. Tourism needs infrastructure, capital investment to market and so the oil industry will give us that reach by providing the resources to have this done,” he stressed.But according to Ramkumar, in order for this to be successful, it needs to go through a deliberate and focused strategy.“So I appeal to all of you and to the powers that be, that we are committed to working with the Government of the day. And it is for the Government of the day, to create an enabling environment and then we will take it from there. So I appeal to you to make sustainable tourism the new frontier industry for Guyana,” the THAG President pleaded.This commitment by the tourism sector was lauded by former Minster Gaskin, who told stakeholders at the reception that he was advised that the industry is poised to be much more productive than the third largest export.Recognising that tourism makes a significant impact on the economy, Gaskin noted that “It is less tangible than sugar and bauxite but it certainly does brings in foreign dollars into Guyana’s economy and that money trickles down and goes a long way. So we cannot ignore this sector and its value. I believe between Government and this sector, there is enough goodwill and commitment to really push this sector further”.Gaskin was forced to resign because of his dual citizenship status, being a born Briton. However, he has since been appointed Director of Manufacturing and Marketing within the Business Ministry with responsibility for the enforcement of standards, providing assistance to small producers and access to markets, particularly Eastern Caribbean markets.His successor, Minister Rajkumar, has commended the strides made under his tenure, committing to continue to push Guyana’s tourism industry. In fact, he foresees Guyana’s tourism being among the top, if not the top, export industry.“Perhaps with the correct management, with correct input and with cooperation of all of us working together, I believe tourism industry can make a significant contribution to our development,” the Business Minister posited.