Nov 26, 2022 Letters
Forgive me for asking such a mundane question right out of the gates. Why does tragedy always have to be the catalyst for change in Guyana? Point in question being the latest demise of Thomas Carstens Jr. a citizen of the United States of America, who reportedly went missing on Wednesday after the boat he was in capsized during a fishing trip in Region Nine. The deceased was a guest at the Kanuku Eco Lodge Resort located in Region Nine.
In November 2021, The Tourism, Industry and Commerce Ministry officially launched Tourism Awareness Month themed: “Preparing for a new Frontier–Stimulating Innovation within the Tourism Sector”. Tourism Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond, delivering remarks on behalf of President Dr. Irfaan Ali, who was at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, said that the aim is to make Guyana the leading tourist destination across the Americas. There were no clear-cut policies/ procedures outlined or identified as to how such an objective would be attained especially from the perspective of tourists being duly informed, tour operators being licensed or qualified, river-worthy vehicles being assured or the responsibility of eco-lodge owners etc.
Following the latest death on Wednesday, the said Minister, in a statement warned that persons should ensure that their tours and tour operators were approved by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA). “A list of approved operators is published on the website of the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce (mintic.gov.gy/approved-tour-operators) and the Guyana Tourism Authority’s Facebook page”, the release said. Above all, I am still completely flummoxed that no part of the directives or ongoing requirements addressed the issue of life jackets and/ or flotation devices that should be part of the boat paraphernalia.
Another absent piece of this enigmatic situation is the seeming overlooking of any attributable responsibility on the part of the Eco-Lodge owners towards their clients/guests/ visitors. Such a warning and all pertinent information from the MINISTRY OF TOURISM INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE should be visible in the Lodge, either posted on the wall, or part of a handout, in addition to forming part of the instructions in the Guests’ Do’s and Don’ts leaflet. Not everyone takes a look at FACEBOOK. It is said that Thomas and another tourist left the Lodge with a boat/ captain tour guide to go upriver for a fishing sport.
Who recommended the trip/ and/or the tour guide? Who made the arrangements for the trip? One does not find a fleet of ships with tour operators waiting outside any Eco- Lodge in Guyana? I am certain the surviving tourist has tales to tell, of how the other his fate befell.
The owner of the Lodge, and all operating Eco-Lodges certainly bear a degree of responsibility in ensuring that all clients (tourists especially) from the moment of arrival are made fully aware of existing rules and regulations regarding tours/ tour operators and whether or not they have been government approved etc., especially if it involves boating.
What about the boats? Who verifies if they are river worthy or not? Based on recent river tragedies in Guyana, the drowning of the two surveyors, it is clear to see that whether metal or wood neither seems good, and not all boats can stay afloat.
The government has announced that in view of this tragedy along with the unfortunate events at Orinduik in October, an inquiry will be initiated. Not wanting to appear as the harbinger of doom, but yet another example of ‘Too much! Too little! Too late!’ Lives have been lost that cannot be replaced at any cost. The time is now for all to come to the table and remain seated, not only the tour operators, and regulatory agencies, but also the owners of the Eco-Lodge for they are the ones providing the oats for the operators of the boats. Ensure that all areas are covered from bow to stern, and starboard to port. All boat operators must also be able to swim, for although sounding slightly dim, some have lost their lives after falling overboard, as was the case of the Wismar boat captain Elick Alexander who was allegedly pushed overboard by passengers and drowned. If Guyana wants to hold true to stimulating innovation, then it should practice modernism in activities that promote tourism and avoid any likelihood of skepticism.
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