THE consumer community has always been concerned with Tourism, because of the many facets it presents to society. In the Caribbean islands when their sugar industry which had been their economic mainstay for two centuries had to be closed, they turned to Tourism to try to keep themselves economically afloat and they have been largely successful. Their Tourism was of the sun-and-sand type and the various islands managed to have tourist industries of a high standard. Barbados could be cited as a successful tourist island and the evidence of its success is reflected in the value of its currency — two Barbados dollars were equivalent to US$1 as compared to Guyana, where $G200 were equivalent to US$1.
For many years, Guyana never considered the development of a tourist industry as a great priority, since the country was blessed with a large number of natural resources such as gold, diamonds, bauxite, forests, and fertile agricultural lands. On these lands flourished agricultural industries, including rice and sugar; these and others engaged the attention of Guyanese far more than Tourism. Of recent years, however, Guyanese are now realising that Eco-tourism which is the type of Tourism Guyana offers, could bring not only economic but ecological and social gains as well. Eco-tourism is far more profitable than sun-and-sand and could bring to the Interior communities more methodical ecological conservation and a cultural and economic fillip. It could also bring Guyana to salutary international notice:
In March last, Guyana was named the “Best Eco-Tourism destination in the world,” leading such experienced tourism destinations as Mexico and Tmatboey in Cambodia. Then in June, it received the Latin American Travel Association’s (LATA) “Best in Sustainable Tourism” award. This award was conferred on Guyana for “its impressive sustainable tourism practices and community-led tourism framework, which provides job-creation; helps preserve local traditions and customs; promotes low-carbon lifestyles and provides livelihoods for indigenous communities.” To further emphasise the growing positive international image of Guyana, it was featured in the June/July edition of the Travel Agent Central Magazine with Kaieteur Falls spread over its cover and Guyana being its lead story.
A great part of the achievement of the promotion of this magnificent world image for Guyana must be to the credit of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG).
The time is now coming to convert these achievements into money and this requires the strengthening of the local tourism base.
In this area of strengthening the local tourism base and driving activity forward, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and its Director Mr Brian Mullis have been playing a major role. The GTA has been in touch with all stakeholders so that they would all have shared ownership. In pursuing this role, the GTA held two round-table stakeholder engagements in June, the first in Georgetown and the other in Lethem. At these meetings, 45 tourism stakeholders representing tour operators, Interior lodges and resorts, hotels, communities and non-governmental organisations were involved. Among these stakeholders were the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana, Conservation International and the North Rupununi District Development Board. These meetings and engagements were held under the theme, “Tourism Development Challenges and Solutions. We all have a role to play.”
Tourism strategies, priorities and outcomes to date and for the period 2019 -2020 were addressed, as well as critical areas such as reinstating regularly scheduled flights into the hinterland, prioritising policy and critical infrastructural improvements and raising awareness of the importance and value of tourism nationally. Also, and equally important with the growing market, international safety, quality and sustainability standards must be achieved. Mr Mullis encapsulated this approach with the remark: “Only through this level of multi-stakeholder collaboration can tourism realise its potential as a force for good in Guyana.”
Food is one of the most important aspects of Tourism and the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) has been working assiduously to have the hotels and restaurants provide food reasonably priced food of international standard. Twice each year, they enlist the restaurants of good standard to participate in Restaurant Week. In June, 18 restaurants participated and in November, more than 30.
All the 18 restaurants which participated last month provided two-course lunches at $2,500 and three-course dinners at $4,000 and each restaurant offered its own specialty. The Week was a success and those who took advantage of it were high in their praise of the value they received. It was aptly described as “a culinary adventure, where one could explore, eat and repeat.” Tourism in Guyana is beginning an upward swing.