Over time, there has been much talk about Guyana’s tourism potential, with seeming emphasis on ecotourism, given the country’s geographical makeup. While work is ongoing to build the country’s tourism profile internationally, local tourism may need a bit more focus. This does not suggest there are no related efforts in that regard; however, consistency with added innovativeness may be deemed as challenges.
There is no disputing the beauty of this country, especially in the hinterland areas. The iconic Kaieteur Falls speaks volumes in attesting to its own grandeur and that of tropical Guyana. The Orinduik Falls reminds of the many other cascades nestled in various parts, which demonstrate the magnetism of such wonders of nature within the confines of the country.
Rolling savannahs with mountains as backdrops, dark-water creeks and evergreen jungles, add to the irresistible package the country offers. Those are complemented by the plethora of historical sites scattered from the capital city and outwards throughout the country. Space constrains details of all the relevant places with potential for tourism development.
That said, and given what is currently being offered in the context of local tourism, innovativeness comes in useful to help conjure up a more holistic approach. Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, and its history is littered with influences from other colonial masters, including the Spanish, Dutch and French. There are reminders even today through the names of some villages from the latter two.
Remnants of once seemingly impregnable forts are reservoirs of untold stories, while the fabled El Dorado still excites.
Herein lies vast potential to revolutionise the local tourism drive by encapsulating history. While there are efforts in the form of tours to Fort Island and a few other historical places, consistency appears to be absent. National focus comes during November: Tourism Awareness Month.
That is very useful, and is a good boost, but efforts must be channelled for a more structured approach for increased frequency, allowing ideally for weekend tours year-round by the Government’s tourism arm. There are private tour operators that offer packages throughout the year, and more than likely, a major percentage of the tourists would be overseas-based Guyanese and other tourists.
That said, the reality is that the cost factor for local tourism is prohibitive to ordinary Guyanese here. It is no secret that some have stated their preference to visiting a Caribbean Island like Trinidad & Tobago over Kaieteur Falls, given there appears not much difference in costs. Resorts are also costly; however, operators cannot work at a loss. While some local Guyanese are able to afford tourism packages here, a large percentage cannot.
There are instances when special packages were offered to attract more locals. If that can be sustained, then the potential to attract more increases. That, of course, is subject to market forces for local operators in the context of their current clientele. But, can the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) explore the possibility of working with the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) for sustained weekend tours to the Essequibo Islands as a starter?
Aside from the current usual destinations, others can be added, like the historic St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Leguan. That structure is over 150 years old. Working in collaboration with the custodians, weekend trips are possible. The approach has to be holistic and national in promoting that and other historical sites. The intention must be to educate and build interest, which can be converted into desire to visit. The state media apparatus can play a crucial role in that regard.
The tours do not have to be confined to the Essequibo Islands, but can include other relevant areas which are accessible, if not to ferries, then to other safe vessels. Partnership can also be built for the creation of trinkets and souvenirs for the various destinations. Many visitors to major cities overseas purchase souvenirs, which can include a replica of the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, just to cite a few. What stops locals here from creating souvenirs such as replicas of the St. Peter’s Anglican Church, City Hall, or even Parliament Buildings?
Each town has a rich and intriguing history. A trip to Bartica in the future can possibly see a museum of its history, while trinkets and souvenirs, including related T-Shirts etc, can be sold. This can be replicated in other parts of the country.
With a comprehensive strategic plan and commitment to bolster and revolutionise local tourism, encompassing all the necessary stakeholders, both private and state; and with consideration for justified concessions, it can be done.
There is the strong belief that if necessary services are provided, and within reasonably cost, they will be accessed. Each region and town can initiate its own plan, with support from the Government. In the end, not only would there be a boost in the potential growth of local economies, but Guyanese would be edified by the opportunity for extensive visits to various parts of their homeland.
When referring to history-based tourism here, Jonestown in Region 1 cannot be avoided. Despite its macabre ending, it holds tremendous potential for tourism. A re-establishment of the site for that purpose would attract curious tourists. The spinoffs of air-travel, accommodation, food, local transportation and souvenirs remain untapped. Skeptics just need to look at the 911 Memorial and Museum in New York.