Guyana clinched three of the five top tourism awards as the curtains came down on the 13th Sustainable Tourism Conference on Wednesday evening.
Earning its second award, the Rupununi Learners took the Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award, for delivering on a project aimed at improving the lives of Rupununi residents through educational enhancement in literacy and numeracy while preserving indigenous heritage.
Vice-President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) Daniel Gajie, who is also a past President of the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce, expressed his joy over the win. He said, “I thought our product did excellent, copping the top award. It shows tourism products over the years coupled with the hard work is really paying off. It shows we can do it while still maintaining the environment and being eco-friendly… I think we are going places and I am so proud and happy that we can lead by example.”
To huge applause and screams from excited participants, Victoria’s Mangrove Reserve Women Producers were awestruck as they went to receive the Biodiversity Conservation Award.
They would have demonstrated that through the planting and preservation of mangroves for sea defence while using it to produce honey, they were implementing best environmental practices and conducting a project aimed at raising the socio-economic status of their community. During the course of the conference the women had proudly displayed and sold their produce at their booth. They also, since the beginning of the conference last Sunday, used the time to educate participants who visited the booth on the importance of mangrove sustainability.
The group is now working to seal a deal with a regional hotel to import their honey for use. The women stated that they were not only proud but were excited that they were beginning to reap the financial benefits of their efforts.
Iwokrama won, meanwhile, the Community Benefit Award for its long-term commitment to conservation and community development. Many of the international delegates were impressed by the rainforest reserve and openly praised the efforts of workers and the community there.
Meanwhile the Kalinago Barana Aute, of Dominica, took home the Heritage Protection Award while the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, of Barbados, won the Sustainable Accommodation Award.
Meanwhile, speaking about the conference, Gajie said it was a great success and the organisers did an excellent job in the day-to-day coordination. However, he added that THAG would have liked to have seen more local participation. “We had a good number of Caribbean participants but little was done on the local side and for that I am disappointed,” he said, while noting that more persons could have participated from the hotels, taxis, cafés, tour operators, and restaurants, among others.
He also believed that the garbage situation was a negative for the conference, although not directly linked to organisers. “The garbage situation is just downright disgusting and a turnoff and when tourists see it, especially when it greets them on morning walks or jogs, it’s embarrassing for us with the complaints. We [THAG] made our position clear, we don’t care who have to clean the garbage, we just know it has to be kept clean and something needs to be urgently done,” he said, while recommending an education campaign to address the situation.
The conference, which began here on Sunday, saw over 200 delegates from the local, regional and international tourism industry. Trinidad and Tobago will host next year’s conference.