By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Last week, the Inter-American Tourism Conference in Guyana organised by the Organisation of American States (OAS) under the theme “Connecting the Americas through Sustainable Tourism”, drew attention to the much talked about “Guiana Shield Initiative” that was started at the United Nations by diplomats from Suriname and Guyana, Henry MacDonald and Michael Tempow.
The initiative has the backing of Guyana and French Guiana. Suriname, which still has questions, is however expected to join the initiative.
MacDonald, former UN ambassador of Suriname, was present as an observer. He is also president of the World Development Foundation (WDF), an NGO with a head office in New York and a regional office in Paramaribo. The WDF is committed to promoting the Guiana Shield and sustainable tourism in the region.
As previously reported by Caribbean News Now, MacDonald was present at the conference to introduce the WDF and its goals to various governments, companies and other NGOs that also participated in the event.
The conference which was held on March 21 and 22, brought ministers of tourism and representatives of tourism authorities from member states of the OAS who came together in Georgetown to discuss on sustainable tourism in the region and create synergies.
President David Granger of Guyana opened the event and shared with the group his country’s plan for a “green economy”. He also said that Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, and emphasised the importance of preserving the Guiana Shield.
Besides tourism ministers from OAS countries, stakeholders in the tourism industry also participated. The aviation sector, travel companies, the tourism board of Guyana, and hotels also showcased their products. Copa Airlines vice president of marketing, Christophe Didier; Kayla Reece of Fly Jamaica; and Ivan Lopez Villalba made presentations.
The Guiana Shield tourism initiative falls within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and calls for private public partnership (PPP) to drive the initiative.
“The Caribbean Guiana Shield area is an exciting, tri-country ecotourism plan featuring Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana. The Shield Area commemorates the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development. We are proud to premiere this new tourism initiative during this conference,” MacDonald said.
The project will require great political will from the governments of Guyana and Suriname to commit to some bold initiatives such as a common visa. This initiative will eventually have to include Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Visitors tend to stay away from countries that require multiple visas. EU and US citizens don’t need a visa or a tourist card to visit any Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country except Suriname.