Vehicles navigating a rocky trail on the Pakaraima Mountain Safari
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- A mere decade ago, it was practically non-existent; today Guyana boasts a thriving tourism sector, with tremendous potential and with some aspects that can be compared to any of the popular tourist destinations in the region.
For director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), Indranauth Haralsingh, the sector can help to transform the country, and explained that tourism is part of the service and export- oriented industries.
“Even though we are a fledgling stage, we have made a lot of headway as a tourism destination…our popularity has been growing, we are known as an eco, nature and adventure tourism destination,” Haralsingh said.
International Branding and Recognition
In recent years, Guyana has been ranked by numerous tour companies, international travel publications and given very good branding and endorsements. It was labelled “God’s Garden”, a Birder’s Paradise, branded as the hottest new neo-tropical birding destination; listed as one of the top 20 places to visit and in the top 100 adventure destinations of a lifetime.
The country is also well-known for it rich cultural heritage, pristine forests, rare and endemic species of animals, and indigenous communities.
Today, the number of tour operators has also increased significantly and there has been more participation in international trade shows. The most recent such activities were hosted in Canada and New York and the GTA is now looking at take similar events to countries in the region such as Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
In June, Guyana was prominently featured in the Fortune 500 magazine. Additionally, on August 16-18 Guyana will be represented at the British Bird Watching Fair.
Over the last 10 years, visitor arrivals have been increasing significantly in Guyana. Last year, there is a recorded figure of over 175,000 visitors compared to 10 years ago when it was merely 70,000-80,000.
As of June this year, the GTA recorded an 11.5 percent increase in arrivals compared to the corresponding period last year. This increase is in spite of the fact that Delta Airlines is no longer operating in Guyana and the increased fares by Caribbean Airlines.
“We are having a lot of visitors from neighbouring Suriname and Brazil, who are coming to Guyana on a daily basis; all of this has helped to increase arrivals. We are predicting this year, that we will be 15 percent ahead of last year’s overall arrivals,” the GTA director said.
He added that, for the first time, arrivals are being recorded from other ports of entry such as the Ogle International Airport, where LIAT has recently commenced operations.
The issue of cheap flights to and from Guyana is one of the challenges that the government has been grappling with. However, much effort is being made to negotiate with and encourage various carriers to extend their services to Guyana.
Haralsingh said discussions are ongoing with China Airlines, Jet Blue, West Jet, and Air Canada among others.
“We are speaking with lot of airlines and revisiting our strategy so that we can attract more carriers to Guyana,” he said.
Meanwhile, a number of other proposals have been received from companies such as Fly Guyana, which is expected to commence operations in October this year. Fly Jamaica on the other hand, is expected to start flying to Guyana later this month.
Haralsingh said, “Visitor arrivals is a very good indicator of the health of tourism in Guyana, and the level of investment is another indicator; it shows the confidence that people have in the economy.”
Investments such as the Marriott hotel, the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), and the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project will catapult the development of tourism in Guyana. This fact is fully recognised by the private sector and many privately owned entities in the hospitality industry are following suit by either upgrading their existing facilities or establishing new ones.
Guyana is rapidly becoming a popular film and documentary destination. At present, the Discovery Channel is in the country filming an entire season (ten episodes) of the popular show “Gold Rush”. Last year, this show was filmed in Guyana and was a major success.
On August 2, another team from the Discovery Channel is expected to arrive in Guyana to film another series.
Meanwhile, in September, BBC-One will be in Guyana to film the Hunt, another popular series, which will see the showcasing of Guyana’s harpy eagle. All of these activities combined, are significant investments.
The GTA continues to host familiarisation trips to help to expand its sales and distribution network and ensure that Guyana gets into major publications and travel guides.
“We have also stepped up international advertisements to help with our image, branding and positioning of destination Guyana,” Haralsingh said.
Guyana received much coverage and publicity with an advertisement that was placed on Sports Max to air during the last 30 matches of the last India Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.
“With this kind of publicity, we are hoping that our arrival numbers will increase even more and that we will attract more investors as well,” the GTA Director said.