A return visit to the Brazilian state of Roraima by a sizeable Guyanese business delegation following last week’s ground-breaking encounter with a multi-sectoral Brazilian business team in Georgetown is likely before the end of 2010, according to president of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana Paul Stephenson. The return visit is expected to consolidate what Stephenson told Stabroek Business was “a highly significant and highly successful” trip here by more than 60 representatives of business enterprises from the northern Brazilian state of Roraima.
According to Stephenson more than 100 Guyanese businesses have already indicated an interest in making the envisaged overland return journey to Brazil.
Stephenson, a hotelier with business interests in both Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, who recently assumed the presidency of THAG, told Stabroek Business that he believes that the level of enthusiasm being demonstrated by the Brazilian entrepreneurs to do business with Guyana is matched by the eagerness of the Guyanese business community to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the opening of the Takutu bridge and the prospects of the building of an international highway between the two countries.
Stephenson, who chaired the tourism and hospitality encounter during last week’s business forum said that the keenness of the Brazilians to do business with the tourism and hospitality sector here could eventually position Guyana as one of the leading players in the tourism industry in the Caribbean. “I believe that that is entirely possible. We have a potential market of around half a million people in the state of Roraima who are two hours away from Guyana. In fact, visitors from Brazil are already coming to Guyana and visiting places like Rock View, Karanambo, and Surama,” Stephenson told Stabroek Business.
GIn an exclusive interview with Stabroek Business during which he outlined some outcomes of the recent Guyana-Brazil business encounter, Stephenson said that meetings between local and Brazilian representatives of the various sub-sectors in the tourism and hospitality sector had realized at least six specific agreements. He said that while he was not in a position to comment on either the nature or the details of the agreements, his own involvement as facilitator of the exchange between local and Brazilian tourism and hospitality enterprises had persuaded him of the seriousness with which both sides have taken the encounter.
THAG, meanwhile, is positioning itself to work with state agencies associated with enhancing business relations with Brazil, as well as with private sector entities interested in exploring tourism and hospitality ties with Brazil. “Speaking as president of THAG I wish to say that the work done by the Ministry of Tourism, the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest), and the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), along with the Brazilian organization, SEBRAE, to make the engagement possible was tremendous. The engagement itself was historic in terms of Guyana-Brazil private sector relations.” Stephenson says that he now envisages a more structured relationship between the association and state agencies that are directly involved in accelerating relations with northern Brazil in the areas of tourism and hospitality.
And according to Stephenson, local businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector can anticipate THAG’s support in helping to equip them to effectively engage with the Brazilians in order to realize the best business possibilities. “Our focus will be on supporting those businesses who may wish to engage with the Brazilians. We want to be able to provide our members with the best possible advice and to ensure that they are professionally prepared for the experience of engaging the Brazilians,” Stephenson said.
THAG is also gearing itself to provide support for local small businesses through various umbrella organizations, which might potentially benefit from opportunities afforded by the opening up of business opportunities with Brazil. Stephenson said that apart from the focus on conventional tourism, THAG was also seeking to pay attention to community tourism and cultural tourism, ”which, of course, will embrace our Amerindian communities and also take account of our local craft industry.” He disclosed that THAG will shortly be seeking a meeting with the Guyana Art and Craft Producers Association to discuss ways in which the two entities can work together to create commercial opportunities for local craft producers that could arise out of the current initiative to strengthen tourism and hospitality ties with northern Brazil.
Meanwhile, Stephenson is challenging the Guyanese public and private sectors to treat the emerging opportunities from the heightening of business and trade relations with Brazil as an indication of the need to accelerate programs for the teaching of foreign languages as part of the local schools curriculum. Stephenson told Stabroek Business that the need for the local schools’ system to render the teaching of Portuguese had become quite apparent in the wake of the accelerating pace of relations with Brazil. “I believe that this is also a challenge for the private sector and for entities like the Guyana Tourism Authority. We need to train our business owners and our business executives to become proficient in Portuguese since this will obviously enhance our capacity for effective negotiations with Brazil.”