Guyana’s tourism product received a major boost a few days ago when this country was named the world’s best eco-tourism destination. With the political developments that are dominating the news headlines here daily, this news was not given much publicity, but it certainly is something to celebrate, considering the strenuous efforts that are being made by the relevant stakeholders here to push Guyana as a ‘must see’ on the world tourism market.
The award was presented to Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), Brian T. Mullis, at the ITB Global Travel Trade Fair in Berlin, Germany recently. The newly created “Best of Ecotourism” category was added in 2019, and puts Guyana up against very well-known and experienced ecotourism destinations, like Sierra Gorda in Mexico, Tmatboey in Cambodia, and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
President of the Green Destinations Foundation was quoted in the media as saying that the Top 100 Awards Jury was impressed by the dossier prepared by the GTA for the Top-100 nomination, and by the success stories submitted of Surama and Rewa. Both of these eco-lodges have ambitious and admirable goals and successes, are community-owned and led, and aim at preserving Guyana’s ecosystems and indigenous traditions.
Over the years, Guyana has expended considerable amounts of resources to develop new and innovative eco-friendly tourism products. Guyana has a unique tourism product that is offered by no other Caribbean country, and we believe this country has the potential to become one of the Caribbean’s leading tourist destinations, as there are endless possibilities for eco-tourism, yachting, and wildlife, along with a number of other tourism activities.
Certainly, there are some impediments that pose a threat to the development of a thriving tourism sector, such as expensive air travel, lack of trained personnel in the tourism and other related sectors etc. These are issues that must remain on the front burner to be addressed, as they have a direct impact on the quality and affordability of the tourism package we offer. With the oil sector about to take-off soon, more persons, both Guyanese in the diaspora and foreign citizens, will be coming here either to work, visit, or for academic purposes. The focus should be on putting in place systems aimed at projecting a positive image of our country.
Further, we wish to underline the point that Guyana’s tourism product is still evolving, and in order for it to be successful, we all must get involved in the thrust towards making our country a destination of choice. If we are to underscore the importance of tourism to our country’s development, then more public awareness is needed, so that not only the Government and the private sector are on board, but we must ensure that ordinary citizens fully understand and support the industry. Citizens must understand the value of tourism to our country’s development, and the role they could play in ensuring that persons who come here leave with lasting positive impressions of this country.
To begin with, there is need for citizens to start cleaning up their surroundings, especially those living in the capital city, towns and major centres, where tourists traverse. The capital city is a main centre of attraction for visitors, and on any regular day, a walk around the city streets and surrounding areas would leave one ‘sick’ at the sight of the huge pile-up of garbage and other refuse at certain points. For too long, we have accepted substandard services from city officials without raising our voices in protest at their incompetence and inefficiency in carrying out their mandate. Successive governments have had to inject millions to clean up the city, but not long after, the situation goes back to the way it was before.
That said, a thriving tourism sector would benefit all Guyanese, as more persons would be able to secure employment, our country’s revenue would be boosted, and many other related industries would prosper, among other benefits.