Unlike most of the Caribbean Islands which are known for their beautiful and clear water beaches that attract tourists, Guyana is relatively unknown to the outside world and because of this, it has rarely receive positive reviews from the foreign media such as the New York Times regarding its delicious food, its vibrant culture or its cheerful people.
Over the years, it has received negative reviews in the form of travel advisories regarding crime from the United States, Canada and Great Britain.
The most recent travel advisory came a few months ago from the United States Department of State and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Both have issued grim travel warnings to American and Canadian citizens to exercise increased caution when they visit Guyana because of the violent crime such as armed robbery and murder and that the local police lack the necessary resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.
The reports also warned citizens that criminals may act brazenly, therefore they must be vigilant when visiting Banks or ATMs, be aware of their surroundings at all times, avoid walking or driving at nights, do not display signs of wealth, such as huge sums of money, the wearing of expensive watches or jewellery and they should not open their hotel room doors to strangers.
Frustrated as the Minister of Tourism and the government may be, there is very little they can do to deny the crime wave or recoup the damage the warnings have done to the country’s struggling economy and tourist industry. It has become apparent that Guyanese visitors from the diaspora have become the lifeline for the tourist industry.
The government’s claim that the discovery of oil will increase tourism is contrary to the beliefs of tourism experts who alleged that not much will change. They are of the firm opinion that tourist arrivals will increase only with a marketing strategy that showcase the country’s culture, food, its pristine forests and waterways and its amazing wild life of exotic birds and mammals.
If the truth be told, oil has not yet begun to flow but the hotels are full already. Such is the promise that another hotel is expanding to the extent that the construction will cost more than the leading hotel in the city—Marriott.
However, Governments past and present seem not to understand that there is an abundance of resources available to develop and diversify the economy and make Guyana the tourism mecca of the region.
Their muddled tourism strategies have negatively impacted the tourist industry in that they have failed to capitalize on the country’s precious natural resources, its cultural vibrancy and its enriched Creole ethos with roots in Africa, India and China.
The building of a viable tourism industry in Guyana requires strong partnerships with the private sector and the resolute support of the public. Tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry and one that Guyana should really be taking advantage of.
With its pristine forests, imposing rivers, majestic waterfalls, exotic birds and breathtaking animal life, Guyana could easily carve a significant niche and benefit immensely from the tourism industry.
Its resources and products could have the added spin-off of ensuring that the country’s flora and fauna are well-protected while adding jobs to a number of areas that have very high unemployment.
The high crime rate will not imperil the tourist industry, despite warnings from the US and Canada. Guyana has a healthy market for tourism that if developed, could have tremendous potential to attract tourists. With the pumping of oil scheduled for 2020, an investment in the tourism industry makes good sense. It will be good for the country and would aid in buttressing the sliding prices of the country’s products and assume the mantle of a major foreign currency earner.
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