Gavin August may well be unique in the extent of his financial investment in Kwakwani: an estimated $50 million to create a 12-room hotel, which he hopes will pay him back down the road, when the fortunes of the community change.
The native of Kwakwani commenced construction of the hotel in 2005. It took five years for the project to reach fruition. It took that length of time in view of the fact that his application for a loan from a local commercial bank was turned down, because even though he owns the land on which the hotel was constructed he does not as yet have title to it.
A mechanic by profession, August worked for several years as a marine technician on boats in the US Virgin Islands. He also disclosed that he has “some knowledge of the hospitality industry and customer service” although he concedes that owning a hotel is a responsibility of a different magnitude.
The well-appointed premises of the Far Rock Away Hotel stands in striking contrast to the rest of a community, which, the welcoming nature of the residents notwithstanding, bears telltale signs of chronic neglect. Some of the residents are employed with the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc, though not everyone speaks well about the management regime of the Russian aluminium giant RUSAL. Others have small ventures in logging and others still in farming. It’s difficult for someone who is distant from the initiative not to question the rationale behind such a significant investment in Kwakwani at this time. But one gets the impression that August is looking ahead. The 2015 change of administration has brought with it official promises of transformation at Kwakwani, particularly that Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funding will facilitate the creation of an all-weather road linking Linden to Kwakwani. These days, visits to Kwakwani are confined largely to essential travel. In bad weather, the road is often near impassable. August is not the only one whose line of reasoning is that a reliable road link will encourage more visitors—investor and tourists—to Kwakwani. The Far Rock Away, he believes, gives him a head start on the competition.
The Far Rock Away is a 12-room hotel, a decidedly modest investment by the standards of the hospitality sector; but then, for the time being at least, Kwakwani is what it is. Occupants, by and large, are visiting government officials from the city and some investors in the logging sector. Only nine of the 12 rooms are currently in use.
The hotel is still a work in progress. August said it got off to a premature start in 2012, when a group of businessmen had arrived in Kwakwani unannounced and had gone to him looking for accommodation. He had told them that he was not yet open for business. They had replied that if there were beds in the rooms that was enough for them. That was how the Far Rock Away got off the ground.
The patronage of the early days has now levelled off. There are periods, he said, when the hotel is fully booked and he has to turn away guests. On other occasions, for no more than a few nights, it is empty. Patronage tends to ebb and flow with the level of activity in the logging industry.
August has been a cautious investor. Up until now he employs only two persons; nor has he, as yet, invested in kitchen service. The modest catering demands of the hotel’s guests are attended to through an outsourcing arrangement.
The official address of the Far Rock Away is 136 Kwakwani Housing Scheme, Berbice River and the quality of the service is encouraging. The rooms are fully self-contained and the amenities include refrigerators, television and WIFI service. Accommodation rates range from $6,000 to $12,000 per night.