Celebrating Tourism Awareness Month in Guyana
Every November is Tourism Awareness Month in Guyana, increasing international awareness of this incredible South American destination and sharing how tourism can preserve its precious natural resources
On November 1st, the Guyana Tourism Authority officially kicked off this year’s Tourism Awareness Month under the theme “Preparing for a New Frontier – Stimulating Innovation and New Businesses within the tourism sector.” In this blog post, we will explain the significance of this day, how tourism supports conservation, and Guyana’s uniqueness as an emerging sustainable destination.
What is Guyana’s Tourism Awareness Month?
Guyana’s Tourism Awareness Month has happened every November since 2016 to celebrate the South American country’s achievements in the tourism sector and to allow stakeholders across the country to sync up efforts to ensure Guyana becomes a well-known tourism destination throughout the world. Guyana is still an emerging destination on the global stage, whose immense potential is relatively unknown to the international market. Due to this awareness month and immense efforts by the Guyana Tourism Authority to innovate and improve tourism products with a focus on community-led tourism, and to highlight its positive impact as a development tool, the country has become more internationally well-known as an attractive destination. One milestone indicative of this success was receiving #1 “Best of Ecotourism” at the 2019 ITB global travel trade fair.
The 2021 theme for Tourism Awareness Month builds on last year’s focus: recovery from COVID-19. It acknowledges the importance of investments and innovation to further enhance tourism’s potential to boost inclusive socio-economic development and environmental conservation, as well as support Guyana’s journey to full economic recovery in the wake of the devastating pandemic. The Guyanese government stated its commitment to these goals, and reiterated the importance of equal opportunity for every Guyanese citizen, particularly for indigenous communities who do not traditionally reap the benefits of local business development. This year’s Tourism Awareness Month has seen the launch of seven new tourism products – all indigenous operated and centered. This sets an important precedent for the future of tourism in the country, recognizing the indispensable role community-based tourism products play in Guyana’s economic future.
How is Tourism Awareness Month being recognized throughout Guyana?
Many tourism related activities and events are taking place throughout the country, in collaboration with public and private sector stakeholders, including media trips, tourism awards, new product launches, professional training, competitions, and even a restaurant week. Dedicating the time and resources to public awareness around tourism ensures the ongoing development of a consistent, high-standard sustainable tourism industry in Guyana. It also encourages the local population to take interest and pride in Guyana’s tourism products.
Why does Guyana celebrate Tourism Awareness Month?
The intention behind Guyana’s Tourism Awareness Month is not only to improve tourism facilities, but also to raise awareness of Guyana’s successes (both internationally and among the domestic population), as well as its untapped potential to be a leading sustainable tourism destination for travelers passionate about the environment and indigenous cultures. So far, tourism awareness month has left a tremendous impact on the local industry, from supporting more indigenous-centered products to more natural areas being granted protected status, and international awards being won. The continued hope is that more Guyanese are encouraged to become part of and benefit from the tourism industry. Guyana’s Tourism Awareness Month is therefore meant to support the industry as a whole, attract investment, increase visitation (domestic and international, in November and beyond) and outline a strategy for Guyana’s tourism goals.
Past themes have included “sustainable tourism – a tool for development” and “tourism is a force for good,” to highlight the country’s rapidly evolving industry and ensure tourism grows in a manner that benefits local communities.
How can tourism be used as a tool for conservation?
At Friends of Wallacea, we strongly believe that tourism, when done thoughtfully and centering local people and the environment in decision making, is a powerful tool to boost conservation efforts. In fact, we have created our entire organization around this core belief!
Though many might not suspect it, tourism is a critical tool for conservation. Once there is a growing interest and appreciation towards the natural attributes of a destination, be it biodiversity, physical landscape, or natural resources, there is an incentive to protect them. Environmetally-minded tourists are willing to pay a premium to visit these habitats and see nature in its wildest form. This income from tourists prevents actions that negatively affect the natural environment, because tourists will not be interested in visiting (and spending money) in a destination that destroys its unique natural beauty. In turn, locals have an alternative source of income, and nature can continue to thrive and flourish with minimal human interference. The Guyana Tourism Authority has shown progressive tourism management, with their strategies for growth being guided by sustainable tourism and conservation principles.
Around the world, we are becoming more aware of how human actions can harm precious biodiversity and contribute to climate change. Even some forms of tourism, like mass tourism, can harm environments and local livelihoods. Well-intentioned tourists can also have negative impacts through long-haul flights and participation in exploitative tours.
However, there is an increased desire among tourists to venture to truly wild environments, to experience the intricate ecosystems and landscapes that are most at risk from climate change. The regenerative travel movement is growing, and eco-tourism and voluntourism play important roles in promoting tourism as a tool for change. There are plenty of ways anyone can help make significant strides towards making the world more resilient to ever-changing climates through tourism. It can be through choosing indigenous-owned tours, volunteering with wildlife monitoring, assisting with research projects, and making informed decisions about where your tourism dollars are going. At Friends of Wallacea, we are proud to be agents of responsible tourism, so rest assured that choosing to visit Guyana with us would develop your commitment to sustainability even deeper.
What are Guyana’s principal tourism attractions?
Guyana is unarguably a hidden gem, with a low number of tourists who visit every year. That makes it an authentic, off-the-beaten-track destination, untouched by mass tourism. Travelers to Guyana generally come for two reasons: to interact with its awe-inspiring natural landscapes and to experience the variety of cultures and traditions that call the country home.
From pristine rainforest biomes to the golden savannas of the Rupununi, the snaking Essequibo River, and the Acarai Mountains, there are many beautiful landscapes to be discovered. Guyana also holds one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, Kaieteur Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall on Earth. Any trip to Guyana is incomplete without a journey to the heart of the country to see this breathtaking feat of nature.
There are also many meaningful ways to interact with the diverse cultures that make up the Guyanese nation. Popular annual events such as September Heritage Month, the Bartica Regatta, and Guyana Carnival are unique ways to become familiar with Guyana’s cultural diversity. There are also many unique indigenous community-led experiences throughout the country that really differentiate Guyana’s tourist industry from any other country in the world. These community tourism offerings are the heart of the nation’s sustainable tourism, managed on all levels by local people.
One of these particularly unique opportunities is the remote, indigenous village of Warapoka. This village is accessible only by taking a boat up the river to the remote village deep in the rainforest to stay at an ecolodge. Upon arrival, tourists are treated to an immersive experience with the Warau people and their traditional lifestyle – having the opportunity to catch shrimp, canoe, eat unique delicacies from the jungle, learn about medicinal plants, watch cultural performances, and more. Warapoka’s remote landscapes are also full of of “Amazon Giants” (harpy eagle, giant anacondas, giant otters, jaguars). Each day, visitors will have the opportunity to participate in wildlife spotting and biodiversity monitoring excursions to assess the prevalence and habits of these unique creatures. Little formal research has been conducted on the wildlife here, allowing tourists an unparalleled opportunity to participate in meaningful activities that will aid the community’s scientific knowledge of Warapoka’s precious environment and increase tourist income to continue protecting this forest. This will also allow the Warau people to be able to have statistical backings to gain more institutionalized support and conservation of their natural resources. This is a tourism experience that has a profound impact on Guyana’s conservation.
In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, Warapoka Village’s Toshao (indigenous community leader) Jaremy Boyal spoke of the value of tourism in his community, “Tourism is one of the things I am really passionate about because of the opportunities it offers. It contributes in a large way to reviving and maintaining our culture while providing jobs and income for residents. It also helps us protect the environment.”
What do visitors say about their trips to Guyana?
Tourists who visit Guyana are astonished by the country’s natural beauty and diversity, as well as by the hospitable locals. A sense of adventure is part of every experience in Guyana. It encompasses everything – how you get around, food, sightseeing, remote locations, and most of all – the experiences accumulated throughout the trip.
Wonder is another emotion that arises in tourists visiting Guyana, witnessing the magnificent Kaieteur Falls, spending time in the rainforest, observing some of the most impressive wildlife on earth, or getting to know local communities. When exploring Guyana, visitors have emphasized how unique everything was, different from any other place they visited, or anything they expected.
You are invited to visit indigenous villages serving as an inspiring encounter for many tourists that shifts their perspective. English is the official language in Guyana so communication, connection, and cross-cultural understanding is much easier than in other Latin American destinations that speak Spanish.
The Time to Visit Guyana is Now
We hope you enjoyed learning about this unique South American country along the Caribbean Coast, still a top-secret travel destination on the world stage. The travel opportunities found in Guyana are unlike anywhere else in the world, and through November and beyond, we hope you will take the time to learn more about this fascinating country and hopefully be inspired to visit. In the aftermath of COVID, travelers are seeking more authentic experiences in an effort to connect with what really matters in life. Guyana ticks every box.
With direct flights from New York City (JFK airport), Miami, Toronto, Paramaribo, Port of Spain, and Panama City to Georgetown, visiting Guyana is relatively easy. Passport holders of the following countries do not need a visa to enter to Guyana: Commonwealth Countries, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United States of America (USA). Tourists from these countries can stay for 30 days.