Rupununi tourism: ‘Desperate need’ for easier access to products – Visit Rupununi President
Extensive awareness initiatives have fostered a successful tourism product in the Rupununi region but many undiscovered, low-hanging fruits can be leveraged to enhance the experience within this zone in Guyana.
In the same light, calls have been sounded for easier access of both financial and infrastructure to have a thriving eco-tourism product in a post-oil economy.
President of Visit Rupununi, Melanie McTurk shared this position on Thursday as the Department of Marketing and Sustainable Tourism Management within the University of Guyana in collaboration with the Guyana Tourism Authority on Thursday hosted the virtual forum titled ‘New Opportunities for Enhancing Tourism Awareness’.
Main attractions in the region’s unbridled and intact nature include wetlands, untouched tropical rain forests, majestic rivers and savannahs. Endangered species and indigenous cultures are also part of the experience.
Low hanging fruits in tourism opportunities include driving maturity in tourism services, expansion of luxury products, transformative experiences.
“There is a real opportunity for us to focus on transformative experiences. Today’s tourists do not want to just come and observe from afar. They want to participate; they want to contribute. These are opportunities for us to integrate: conservation, education and even cultural preservation into the experiential offerings,” she identified.
However, she also called for increasing ease of access through online financial services, air access and infrastructure.
“There is a desperate need for us to increase ease of access, not just in Guyana but especially in the rupununi region. If we want our tourism product to expand and if we want tourism to really take its place as a future money-earner in a post-oil economy, then we need to fix things like our financial structure.”
Visit Rupununi was established in 2017 as Guyana’s first non-profit Regional Destination Marketing and Management Organisation where over 70 enterprises across the tourism value chain are represented. Even as stakeholders seek to capitalize on tourism openings, she reminded that the aim is to develop, improve and promote sustainable tourism in the Rupununi coupled with preservation of the culture, landscape and wildlife.
McTurk relayed, “We are building a culture of respect for wild spaces, traditional culture and wildlife; and building profitable businesses and this idea of a responsible business culture in which communities are empowered and have a sense of ownership of natural tourism resources.”
“The other core of Visit Rupununi’s work is that as Guyana is acknowledged as the premier destination for nature-based tourism in the world, so is it our responsibility to become advocates and protectors of those assets on which our nature-based tourism is vested.”
The tourism official highlighted that equal access has been high on the agenda, in ensuring that subdistricts like the Deep South and North Pakaraimas are also benefitting.
“In order to have a viable tourism product and tourism assets, we have to educate our stakeholders and our community at large. There is a lot of work that been done in trying to communicate not just what a tourism value chain is but the roles and importance of every member of our community,” it was underscored.
In her remarks, UG’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Paloma Mohamed-Martin expressed that the Amerindian Studies Unit of the institution is not leveraged well but can be used to push tourism. She added that regional talks on education tourism have pushed UG in this direction.
The Vice-Chancellor shared, “Indigenous communities and their services but also the way in which they live, their cultures are significant tourism products, which of course have to be handled very sensitively. This is something that our Amerindian Studies Unit do a lot to support.”
UG is also working on Memorandums of Understanding with the Rupununi Jazz Festival and the Theater Guild.
Aletha Connelly of School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation’s Department of Marketing and Sustainable Tourism Management noted that the institution’s role cannot be static, especially since there is interconnected mandates and requirements. She added that tourism awareness is needed to change or enhance perceptions, foster critical engagement and to increase meaningful participation.
It was pointed out that the role of the University can be a scientific advisor, communicator, innovator, facilitator and revitalizer of tourism. (G12)