UK funded workshop gives birding tourism a boost

Birding guides and other tropical forest based tour operators were yesterday urged to develop and practice good environmental and social skills in doing their work, as this could help bring more tourists into the country.

Around 50 persons from this thriving industry gathered yesterday at the Bel Air Gardens residence of British High Commissioner, Fraser Wheeler, for the start of a two-day work-shop and during the opening ceremony were pressed to be more positive in their tourism thinking and to work together to address the problems affecting the industry.
Some of the participants at the two-day British High Commission funded workshop yesterday. It was designed for birding guides and tropical based tour operators.The workshop is one in a series and forms part of a two-fold, eco-tourism project being funded by the British High Commission with an aim of promoting sustainable tourism development in Guyana by creating awareness that the proper planning, management and promotion of good environmental and social practices are crucial.

During the second phase of this project, which will educate the country’s birding sector about eco-tourism’s good practices as well as provide operators with the essential tools to improve environmental and social performance, a draft code of conduct and good practices checklist for birding tourism in Guyana will be prepared.

In his address, Tourism Minister Manniram Prasad focused on the need to be positive when thinking tourism, and urged stakeholders to find a way to move the product forward. Wheeler stressed the project’s aim to provide training for those in the birding industry. He said the potential of eco-tourism was being realised through the expansion of the birding industry.

Influx of tourists
Prasad told the media yesterday that the workshop was a unique one and welcomed the positive attitude towards this budding industry by the British High Commissioner. He noted that the tourism body had not asked for the workshops and described the efforts (for the project) as laudable.

He said that up to three years ago, Guyana was unheard of when it came to birding tourism but now the country is one of the top destinations in the world.

Prashad said persons flocked the Guyana booth during the last birding festival in London and already there are bookings for 2009 and 2010. He said seeing that an influx of tourists is expected, it is even more important to train birding guides to practice and develop sustainable tourism.

He said that more people are venturing into the interior to explore. “We have to spare no effort in training more people in becoming better birding guides,” he said adding that Guyanese have to be prepared for the influx of tourists.

He assured the media that the Guyana Tourism Authority will not just sit back and look on at the British High Commission’s efforts but will come up with ways to drive the industry.
On the issue of crime possibly affecting the tourism industry, the minister said there was crime all over the world.

Meanwhile Wheeler said that the commission had been lending a hand to Guyana’s tourism industry for many years, an example being Iwokrama. He said bird watching was a major economic opportunity and a clear competitive advantage for Guyana. He stressed that Guyana was unique in terms of the rainforest.

Wheeler said that around 20,000 pounds have been spent to hold this series of workshops adding that they will also be conducting a range of projects including the introduction of live stock genetics in Guyana.
The second workshop will be held at Bina Hill Institute in Annai on Wednesday and Thursday; and the third will be in Lethem on June 3 and 4. The facilitator is Judy Karwacki.

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