Marriott Guyana to boost country's conference-hosting capacityFriday, April 17, 2015
BY PETE SANKEY Senior associate editor firstname.lastname@example.org
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The opening of the Guyana Marriott Hotel in Georgetown yesterday is expected to significantly boost the country's ability to host major conferences, according to Tourism Minister Irfaan Ali.
Ali, who described the hotel's opening as a transformation for the hospitality industry, said that Guyana in the past had to make way to its neighbour Trinidad and Tobago to host big conferences because of his country's inability to meet the requirement with the number of luxury rooms required.
The tourism minister, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, cited a case where investors from the Middle East flew into Guyana on their private jet for a meeting, return to overnight in the Trinidad capital, Port of Spain, then returned to Georgetown the following morning to continue the talks.
At the same time, Ali said the Government's partnership with the Marriott for the building of the luxury 197-room hotel was part of a wider policy to expand the country's tourism offering.
He said that, under the ruling PPP/Civic now led by President Donald Ramotar, the country's hotel room capacity has moved from 600 in 2005 to 2,200 this year, and indicated that the administration would be continuing work to improve its tourism product as it seeks to provide more jobs and improve the economy.
"There are new five-star hotels being built as there is serious private sector interest," he said.
In addition, he said the Government is now expanding the Cheddi Jagan International Airport -- Guyana's main gateway -- to have it upgraded from a Category 2 to a Category 1 port by the United States' Federal Aviation Administration. The work will also include expansion of the runway to accommodate large aircraft from the US and other major destinations.
Minister Ali said, too, that the government is working on a major hydro-electricity plant, which he is hoping will cut the cost of electricity by 40 per cent. Energy costs, he said, account for 60 per cent of costs associated with production.
Meanwhile, Ali yesterday dismissed a protest by the Opposition before the start of the official opening of the Marriott, saying that they had been showing their objection to the project long before its completion.
"They are politicians [and] it is in the nature of politicians," he quipped.
The Opposition, said the tourism minister, had, from the outset, objected to Government's investment in the project, but said it was not uncommon for governments to invest in major hotel projects. He pointed to the Hyatt Hotel in Trinidad that was built during the Patrick Manning Administration, for which the government was severely criticised for its investment.
"At the time Trinidad had major hotel brands and Guyana had none, so this is a critical investment which will be enjoyed by all the people," said Ali.
Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, in a document prepared for visiting journalists, said the opposition's criticism of the Marriott project, particularly post-2011, has served to strongly discourage and then delay private investment in the project.
"The criticisms have been levied despite the substantial information laid before the parliament on the project, invitations to the opposition for briefing on the project... debates organised by government on alleged corruption and inviting the opposition to participate, debates in parliament, and numerous press releases and press conferences by government officials on the project," the finance minister pointed out.
Guyana, according to Singh, has been having uninterrupted growth, averaging four per cent, since 2006 despite the global recession that hit a number of countries. He said Marriott Guyana was another positive indicator for the economy.
He was unable to state the country's unemployment figures, saying that national census now being undertaken would reveal those figures soon. In the meantime, he cited the 2,000 jobs created by a Mexican call centre, with another 4,000 expected in another five years; 2,500 jobs by a French company; and another 600 by a Canadian gold mining company.
Winston Brassington, in a press conference yesterday afternoon, explained that of the 23 companies that had an interest in the Marriott project, seven were pre-qualified. He said of that number only two produced tenders, of which Shanghai Construction, through its T&T subsidiary, was selected.
Brassington, executive director of the Private Unit in the Ministry of Finance -- the vehicle used in the execution of the State's investment in the hotel -- said that although the contractor used a number of Chinese on the construction site, sub-contracts were given to Guyanese, adding that it would have been difficult to find a local company to undertake the entire project.
"We promised that, at the completion of the project, most of the jobs would go to Guyanese and of the 230 now employed 95 per cent are Guyanese," Brassington told journalists.
Brassington said another 200 people will be employed when Phase 2 of the project is completed. This phase will involve the construction of an entertainment complex which will have a casino as a major offering.
The Marriott, in information provided to journalists on its newest property, said:
"The 197-room Guyana Marriott Hotel Georgetown creates a striking new visual in the city both inside and out and is equipped to enable guests to Travel Brilliantly. Located in the heart of Georgetown where the Demerara River meets the Atlantic Ocean, the hotel features the brand's signature interactive Greatroom concept.
"The Greatroom lobby provides a destination where guests and locals can gather, by themselves or with friends or colleagues, to relax, socialise and work. With free Wi-Fi and USB ports and outlets throughout the lobby, hotel guests and locals can work on their laptops and relax with their own tablets.
"The hotel's custom-designed guestrooms feature a soothing neutral palate, Wi-Fi, luxury bedding, LCD TVs, alarm clocks with iPhone 5 and iPad docking station, and Marriott Hotels' signature bath amenities by THANN, a natural Thai skincare line.
"For the local and visiting foodies, the property features the long awaited Terra Mare restaurant that boasts a complete culinary experience from land and sea with a full wine list that pairs beautifully with the featured dishes. The hotel also has an outdoor modern pool deck with a sleek bar & grill, and more than 8,900 square feet of meeting space, including a beautiful, modern grand ballroom."