– says President Ali
GUYANA’S Rupununi is one of the country’s most sought-after tourism destinations and if Guyana can successfully twin this tourism product with that of Northern Brazil, the Rupununi can be among the world’s most powerful tourism destinations.
This is according to President Dr. Irfaan Ali, who provided brief remarks at the opening of Guyana’s first regional tourism information centre.
The centre was established in Lethem by Visit Rupununi, a tourism body that represents over 70 enterprises across the tourism value chain in the Rupununi. It is located just across from the town’s airstrip, strategically positioned to capture travellers.
President Ali, who commissioned the centre on Saturday, emphasised the value of Rupununi in Guyana’s overall ecotourism brand – which has been rated as the top ecotourism destination in the world.
“Each one of us must become an ambassador for tourism and there is no better place than here in our Rupununi.
“We must never ever underestimate the value we bring to the world,” the President emphasised.
The President explained that efforts are being made to harness Guyana’s environmental and ecological services to push the country’s sustainable development. This will be pursued through the revised Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
Because of the Rupununi’s strategic geographic location at the northern Brazilian border, President Ali said that efforts must be made to build a common tourism product with Brazil.
“Once we are able to incorporate (Brazil), we will have one of the most powerful tourism products in the world,” President Ali said.
Melanie McTurk, the President of Visit Rupununi, said that tourism players in the region are acutely aware of the value of the space they live and work in.
“The Rupununi sits as the gateway to Brazil [and] with development of Linden to Lethem Road, Visit Rupununi is poised to help make people of the Rupununi part and parcel of the region’s development,” McTurk said at the centre’s opening.
And this tourism centre, she explained, will serve as the central hub for tourism opportunities in the region, business development support for all the regional tourism players and marketing opportunities. All of these features, she posited, will be able to push the ‘Visit Rupununi’ brand.
McTurk also noted that it was President Dr. Irfaan Ali who, last year, challenged the tourism body to establish this centre.
The Rupununi is located in the southwest region of Guyana; it is best known for sprawling savannahs, picturesque mountains and abundant biodiversity.
RODEO BACK IN ACTION
Meanwhile, after a two-year hiatus prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rupununi Rodeo returned on Saturday, bringing together scores of people but not without calls for a greater level of investment to expand this unique tourism product.
The Rupununi rodeo features vaqueros (or cowboys and cowgirls, as they are more commonly known) from across Region Nine. For two days, usually at the Easter weekend, hundreds of people gather to witness individuals showcase various skills at taming calves, bulls and horses.
The rodeo also offers residents there, who are primarily Indigenous People, the opportunity to showcase the best of their food, craft and culture.
Region Nine’s Vice Chairman, Bertie Xavier said that the return of the rodeo has brought with it a “spirit of reunion and unity” within the region, one that also indicates that economic activity in the region is slowly being revitalised.
It was President Ali, in brief remarks, who spoke about the region’s economic development and touted the possibility of expanding it into one of the Caribbean’s premier tourism events.
“(The rodeo) can stand side-by-side with the best of cricket and the best of racing in the region,” President Ali declared at the Lethem rodeo ground on Saturday.
What is needed, the President said, is a greater level of investment to expand the annual activity.
“Building a product like this requires investment, making Rupununi and rodeo a staple product requires investment,” the President said emphatically.
Already, he said that the government is investing in the necessary infrastructural works such as paving the Linden to Mabura road, and later, the Mabura to Lethem link. The journey to Lethem, via this Linden to Mabura road, currently takes more than 12 hours but parts of the road are worn down.
Adding to the President’s remarks was the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond, who said that the return of the rodeo saw a greater demand for accommodation that existing hotels and guesthouses could not have accommodated.
As such, she called on investors to invest in more accommodation spaces in the region, particularly amid efforts to boost the marketing of the Rupununi Rodeo across the Caribbean and even internationally.
Aside from expanding the marketing, Minister Walrond also said that the government has been investing in training more Indigenous People in the region in hospitality skills to prepare them for the forthcoming uptake in tourism activity in the region.
Meanwhile, President Ali also donated $1 million to the Rupununi Rodeo committee and promised continuous support in cash and kind on an annual basis. (Republished from the News Room)