Amongst the concerns expressed at the meeting between the travel agents and the Public Works Minister was the need for a stronger legal framework to protect the Travel Agents in Guyana.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting tremendously the industry last year, it is taking a turn for the good. Agents gathered at the Arthur Chung Conventional Centre, where Minister of Public WorksJuan Edhgill indicated that discussions will continue on regulating the sector. This move is seen as one that is aimed at operationalising those regulations through a joint effort since those discussions commenced in 2019.
“I know some have been challenged… but we have to optimise what we have to meet international standards. Guyana is on the rise and because of that fact, we have to look at all the players at all levels and ensure we are getting up to speed.
“Up your game, expand your network, ensure you’re in compliance and as they say in the airline industry… let’s take off,” the Public Works Minister said.
The regulations, Edghill believes, are more important now than ever because of the new environment that travel agents will have to operate in as Guyana expands and become the hub for the Caribbean and South America.
“You’re not just a little business in a cubicle somewhere. You are a service industry, you provide necessary service to the travelling public and we want to ensure that you do so in a regulated manner and in a framework that is good for you and your customers. Rights of customers must be protected,” he said
The Minister indicated consultations will commence shortly between representatives from the Ministry, GCAA and travel agents, on the specific regulations to be implemented.
“So, the conversation about the Minister making regulations to ensure that we are properly regulated, I don’t want it to be a ‘top down’ where I sit in my office with some legal people and write regulations. That must come of consultations to find out what are the areas that need to be regulated, what needs to be strengthened, what needs to be changed,” he explained.
Present at the meeting was Director of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Ret’d General Lieutenant-Colonel Egbert Field. The Director told those gathered that the agency has received numerous complaints concerning airlines that have pulled their services from Guyana leaving millions of dollars to refund customers. Agents agreed, stating that Fly Jamaica has not fulfilled their obligation in refunding passengers their money.
The airline pulled its services after filing for bankruptcy in 2019 following a plane crash at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in 2018. They also referred to instances with Caribbean Airlines and Eastern Airlines.
They complained about CAL drawn-out process of refunding customers who were affected by the closure of operations during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and also Eastern Airlines allegedly failing to compensate customers who were affected early last year. LIAT also issued vouchers and has since failed to process cash payments promptly.
While expressing disappointment at the airlines, the Public Works Minister has instructed the head of the GCAA to follow up with the management of Eastern Airline and Fly Jamaica regarding these complaints. This is specifically so he can receive an update on the impending refund due to Guyanese passengers.
Minister Edghill hailed the agents for their services especially during such an economic tough time in Guyana, Regionally, and Internationally.
Finally, he mentioned there must be a draft regulation and compliance document that will reflect the input of all relevant stakeholders in the industry. “So, we are not going to encourage monopoly. We are not going to encourage elitism and we are going to keep the door of businesses open, but we also want everybody who is in practice, in compliance… So I am suggesting that the work of this team wrap up in no longer than six months,” he added.