By Rehana Ahamad
For decades, the tourism industry’s goal has been to attract foreigners and entice them to come to Guyana and discover everything the country has to offer, though a large percentage of Guyanese themselves forget the games featured in different regions of the country.
When the coronavirus struck in Guyana in March 2020, the tourism sector was shattered; the locksmiths and the locally established curfew highlighted the fragility of the industry, and its apparent domination of the domestic market. Although the pandemic has brought many heartache and worries, there may be a few silver linings; most notably is the fact that many people and sectors are forced to look inside, before looking out.
For example, the pandemic inspired the creation of kitchen gardens and the purchase of more locally produced items, rather than relying on imported products, whose arrival was threatened by global lockdown regulations. Similarly, the advent of COVID-19 revealed the importance of domestic tourism, and the need for authorities to invest even more heavily in this area.
As a result, the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce has begun partnering with relevant stakeholders to inspire and attract more Guyanese to holidays in Guyana.
This new mission is highlighted intensively in the content of the second edition of the Ministry’s Hotspot Magazine, which was launched almost on Wednesday.
Under the theme, ‘The Road to Recovery,’ the 48-page magazine, promotes all 10 administrative divisions, with an emphasis on the hidden gems within them.
The magazine’s publisher, Mensah Fox, said he was particularly pleased with the level of inclusiveness captured in the publication.
“It gave all the regions the opportunity to showcase their own tourism product, get input into all the articles and even photography… it has touched so many aspects,” Fox noted.
Tourism Director Donald Sinclair, who was also the Editor-in-Chief of the publication, explained that a competition was being held for the magazine’s cover design, and that this was Region Three.
The magazine’s Associate Editor, Cordell McClure, in his concise remarks, said Guyana is a fascinating story that must be told, even to unaware Guyanese.
“Over the past year, I have been able to visit several of the regions and I can tell you that many of the regions have really positioned themselves to be part of this new tourism thrust,” opined McClure.
PLAN AND TRAVEL
Meanwhile, Rupununi Visit President Melanie McTurk said the Hotspot Magazine is trying to enlighten Guyanese about the tourist attractions in different regions.
“… From free public events, to once-in-a-lifetime experiences; there are sites and activities to suit a range of choices, as well as packages to meet all budgets, ”McTurk noted.
He added, “Tourism dollars directly create jobs and support village economies, right here in Guyana.”
While many Guyanese often cite financial constraints as reasons for their lack of travel, McTurk believes that the key to travel, even at home, is effective planning.
“It’s important to do your research. Be realistic about what you can afford on your budget and in some cases be prepared to save towards that special experience, ”advised McTurk.
She also recommends that Guyanese form a habit of looking out for travel packages and promotions, all year long. “Because many of Guyana’s internationally renowned tourist sites offer special packages at different times of the year, and many new products will offer special introductory prices,” said McTurk.
DUSTING OUT THE HIDDEN GEMS
Meanwhile, Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), Carla James, said that even in the midst of the pandemic, the demand for travel will continue to grow until it can be met.
“Destination health and cleanliness is the new norm for making travel decisions,” says James.
He noted that with international travel restrictions still being imposed by many countries and destinations, the local market and diaspora remain vital components of the tourism industry’s recovery efforts.
The Director of the GTA said the Hotspot Magazine drew special attention to the hidden pearls of every region of Guyana.
DELIVERY OF REGIONS
“We encourage everyone to get out and explore our very beautiful country. As you go through the magazine, you will find that there is no corner of Guyana where you are not going to have fun and have unique experiences, ”James asserted.
Similar sentiments were shared by Mitra Ramkumar, President of Guyana Tourism and Hospitality Association (THAG).
“None of us can doubt the beauty of our regions. What this announcement has done, is to highlight those beauties, ”said Ramkumar.
The President of THAG believes that efforts to produce the magazine have also borrowed to strengthen regional tourism bodies. “This really ties into the message of World Tourism Day, which is tourism and rural development … it empowers these regions,” said Ramkumar.
He also noted that the magazine was also a good promotion for tourism businesses to generate income, thus encouraging them to continue their investments within the different regions.
“… And for them to stay in those communities and keep the history and cultures alive,” Ramkumar added.
COMING HOME AS A TOURIST
The Hotspot Magazine also features an article by Minakshi Babulall, a member of the Canadian diaspora, and the founder and CEO of a not-for-profit organization called ‘A Different Youth Project’.
Babulall said she was able to include in the article, her aspirations and expectations of a Guyana destination. “Much of our tourism has previously been aimed at getting international games into the country, but right now, the pandemic has given locals the opportunity to visit the regions and see the what they have to offer, ”said Babulall.
He said his organization hopes to bring the diaspora back by creating immersive, intercultural adventures, employing three aspects of what makes Guyana unique.
“Our project combines three essential industries – eco-tourism, agriculture and community development,” noted Babulall.
Nevertheless, distribution of the hard copy magazines has begun nationwide, while electronic copies will go online today on the Ministry of Tourism, and the Guyana Tourism Authority website, respectively.