Our own tourists
At the recently concluded IMF/CDB forum to recalibrate the economic strategies of CariCom to deal with the global downturn, it was suggested that we focus more on inter-regional tourism. We agree but add the caveat that we consider our huge expatriate communities, as ‘intra-regional” – Region 11. With that in mind, we resubmit a recommendation previously offered.
After a decade or more of promoting the eco-tourism attractions of our interior, the fact remains that the majority of visitors to our shores remains the expatriate Guyanese and his generally foreign-born offspring. Not surprisingly, since the majority of them originated from the coastland, they rarely, if ever, think of going into our interior. The forest is not their destination as yet.
Apart from plugging Mashramani and ancillary activities –the “Big Limes”, for example – the authorities have not really focused on the coast as a tourist destination. But if an accounting is done, the Guyanese visitors will be shown to have made a contribution to the Guyanese economy far in excess than from the “tourists” we are pursuing so fervidly. We suggest that it is high time that this anomaly be rectified.
What has evidently passed under the radar of the Tourism Ministry has certainly not escaped the notice of sharp-eyed Guyanese businessmen who have rushed in to fill the gap in servicing the needs of the exuberant Guyanese tourists. After three decades of heavy migration, the typical Guyanese visitor has now passed the stage of simply hunkering down in his native village with his suitcases filled with goodies.
He now wants to take out his relatives for some fun. All across the coast nowadays are hotels, guest houses, restaurants, resorts – such as Splashmins and Lake Mainstay – that have their busiest period during the northern summer from which the expatriate Guyanese find it most convenient to visit. Even a cursory check would reveal that in the centre of most of the revellers is a Guyanese expatriate.
The point we wish to make is not that we have to give up on the “regular” tourist who might want to sample our interior fare, but that the Ministry of Tourism should expand its activities to encourage even more Guyanese visitors to make their old country their vacation of choice and to make the experience even more enjoyable for those who choose to do so.
The Ministry can do worse than work with its sister Ministry of Local Government to take control of the garbage that is simply dumped willy-nilly in so many locations – not only in Georgetown – where visitors congregate. Guyanese who have spent any time abroad are (rightfully) deeply offended by the smells and sight of our garbage-strewn roadways and if our authorities can bring some order to the situation not only our coffers – but also our health – will benefit.
Our annual Rupununi Rodeo and Bartica Regatta (and the afore-mentioned Mashramani) are well recognised events that the authorities deserve kudos for promoting. However, there are several other festivals and celebrations from our rich and kaleidoscopic cultural tapestry that can be romanced and organised to attract hordes of expatriate Guyanese all year round. Right off the bat one can think of Phagwah and Deepavali; Emancipation and Arrival Days. These events already have deep significance to Guyanese in the Diaspora and it will not take much to induce them to share the experience with their brothers and sisters in the original milieu.
A “Heritage Experience” can also be experienced. Most children of foreign-born Guyanese would have heard innumerable stories of their parents growing up on sugar plantations, rice districts, city locations, etc, or working in the goldfields or the bauxite mines. A village with logies can easily be constructed at the site of one of the abandoned estates – say LBI on the East Coast of Demerara – and combined with the other sites and sounds of slave/indentured life.
These ideas form only the tip of what we believe can be a burgeoning industry and we hope that a fruitful discussion will ensue.