Sod turned for over US$7M Hospitality Institute in Berbice

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Prime Minister retired brigadier Mark Philips joined by ministers Dr Ashni Singh, Oneidge Walrond and Sonia Parag along with representative from the contractor and regional officials at the sod turning ceremony

Prime Minister retired brigadier Mark Philips on Friday turned the sod to symbolically commence the construction of the over US$7 million Hospitality and Tourism Training Institute (HTTI).

This, he said, signals the government’s commitment to ensuring that the tourism sector continues to grow. Currently, tourism is Guyana’s fourth largest foreign exchange earner, accounting for 2.3 per cent of local Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Speaking  at the sod-turning ceremony at Port Mourant, Corentyne, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), the prime minister said it is estimated that by 2030, the sector will employ some 50,000 persons locally.

However, he noted that there are several challenges affecting the sector currently. He said these must be overcome to realise this goal.

“We have to increase the number of hotel rooms. We are looking over the medium term to increase the number of rooms by 3000.”

In this regard, several internationally branded hotels and being established locally.“We have other challenges too to address,” Phillips continued.

“Including the high cost of air travel, improving destination marketing, improving our product development and improving the training of hospitality service workers, and reducing the high turnover of staff in the tourism sector. This is the most important reason why we are investing in the construction of this Hospitality and Tourism Training Institute. We have to develop continuous cohorts of trained hospitality workers to assume the management of this sector and to provide the multiplicity of services required in this sector,” Prime Minister Philips explained.

He pointed out that investing heavily in the tourism sector will ensure that Guyanese can secure employment opportunities within the region which will reduce the unemployment rate and foster wellbeing.

The US$7,002,126 million project was awarded to Kares Engineering Inc. and has a completion date set for January 21, 2026.

Senior Minister with Responsibility for Finance Dr Ashni Singh who also addressed the gathering on Friday, said President Dr Irfaan Ali will not be accepting delays.

“The supervising project unit, the supervising engineers and the contractors, our President has sounded a zero-tolerance position in relation to project delays and I am not waiting until two months before the project completion date to say this to you. We will not accept the non-completion of this project within the stipulated project time and within its budget,” Dr Singh said.

Speaking of the significance of the ceremony, Minister Singh noted that it was not just the turning of the sod for another building. He pointed out that it was another important step and the second within two weeks in a short journey towards the realization of Port Mourant as the technical training capital of Guyana and of the Caribbean,” he noted.

Singh said while modern hotels are being built in Guyana, one would not want to go to those facilities and experience a service that is below our expectations.

“One would not want to go into a hotel building or restaurant and discover a quality of service that belongs four or five decades ago. The beauty of the physical edifice must surely be matched by the quality of service experienced.”

Meanwhile, Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond called on all to understand the vision of the local tourism sector to have it as one of the main components of the local economy.

Guyana recorded its highest number of tourist arrivals in 2023, as some 319,000 persons visited the country.

“This figure is significant as it represents a 270 per cent increase in visitor arrivals since 2020.”

More than 21,000 visitors arrived through the Moleson Port in Region Six last year.The month of September 2023 saw the most arrivals in the country as the CPL cricket carnival was hosted.

Local Government and Regional Development Minister Sonia Parag noted that the investment in the tourism sector is not just a symbol of progress; it’s a testament to His Excellency’s Government’s unwavering commitment to excellence and the future of our country she said.

“In a world where tourism and hospitality industries are ever-evolving and at a time when our country is experiencing unprecedented growth in the tourism industry, it has become imperative that we equip ourselves with the necessary skills and knowledge to compete on a global scale. This training Institute stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity for our people, and will offer world-class education and training in hospitality management, culinary arts, tourism, and all of the related fields.”

She noted that the institute is a gateway to countless opportunities for the country’s youth, its workforce, and economy.

“By investing in the human resource capacity of our nation, we are laying the foundation for sustainable growth and prosperity for generations to come,” Parag added.

Last year 319,056 visitor arrivals raked in an estimated US$338 million. This figure is based on a Go-Invest estimate that the average visitor spending US$1060.