Brazilian tourists are showing increased interest in Guyana, partly as a result of the economic and political turmoil in Venezuela, and local tourism operators were able to showcase what the Rupununi has to offer and strengthen ties with their Brazilian counterparts during a conference last week.
During the event, held in Boa Vista in the Brazilian state of Roraima, it was explained by Brazilian tour operators that their current customers want to explore additional tourism markets. These markets, according to a statement from the organiser, Visit Rupununi, include spiritual tourism–reconnecting with nature—and gastronomic tourism—tasting cultural dishes unique to a country.
“Guyana’s unique and diverse cultures and the Rupununi’s distinct natural environment and indigenous cultures were outlined as attractions that can support both markets,” the statement said. It said the tour operators highlighted the eagerness of their customers to explore new destinations like Guyana and noted that interest in the Rupununi region came particularly from southern parts of Brazil, like São Paulo.
It was pointed out that according to the tourism professionals, interest in Guyana has risen because of the economic and political turmoil in Venezuela, a once popular destination for Brazilians. In addition, the statement said, Brazilians also want to see more of their country and visiting Roraima in collaboration with Guyana would be opportune.
Approximately 75 participants, which included representatives from the private and public sectors as well as communities/civil society, participated in the two-day networking conference. The event consisted of presentations and information sharing sessions and a business networking round-table. The objectives of the mission were to create greater awareness of the Rupununi and its potential in Brazil, to develop a better understanding of the needs and interests of the Brazilian market, and to identify opportunities for networking and cross border tourism business development.
The statement said that during the conference, the reps from both countries highlighted challenges which need to be overcome in order to facilitate tourism development. From the Guyana side, these included: limited information on Guyana and the Rupununi, expensive travel costs, the language barrier, policy regulations in relation to cross-border movement of people and vehicles, and the state of the Lethem to Linden road.
However, in spite of these challenges, Roraima tour operators and officials have signalled their intention to work with Visit Rupununi to build partnerships in promoting tourism development in both regions. The statement added that apart from identifying the challenges, the conference was seen as a starting point for dialogue with national stakeholders to develop action plans to address these areas.
On the first day of the event, presentations were made by tour operators from both Guyana and Brazil. Representing Guyana’s Rupununi region were tour operators Ron Allicock of Ron Allicock Birding Tours, Melanie McTurk of Karanambu Lodge, Jacqueline Allicock of Surama Eco-Lodge, Jonathan Joseph of Ariwa Beach, Kayla De Freitas, Leroy Ignacio of Rupununi Trails and Daniel Gajie of Rupununi Eco Hotel.
The statement said that each operator presented on various aspects of the Rupununi tourism product, which included community-based tourism, nature-based tourism, adventure tourism and bird-watching.
Representing the Brazilian side were tour operators Joaquim Magno de Souza of Roraima Adventures and Francisco Diniz of Makunaima Expedições as well as Professor of Tourism Studies Dr Ismar Borges de Lima, who analysed the challenges and opportunities for cross-border tourism.
De Lima commended efforts in broadening the tourism markets on both sides of the border. However, he said, language barriers have to be broken on both sides for success to truly happen. “People on both sides of the border need to speak both languages,” the tourism professor was quoted as saying.
The statement said that as a result of the forum, Visit Rupununi and its affiliated tourism operators were invited by their Brazilian counterparts to share an exhibition booth with Roraima at the 44th International Tourism Fair organised by the Brazilian Travel Agencies Association (ABAV) in São Paulo at the end of September. ABAV is the entity with the biggest tourism representation in Brazil.
In the meantime, Visit Rupununi is planning to host a familiarisation trip at the end of August throughout the Rupununi for tour operators from Roraima who have indicated a strong interest in including the region as part of their tourism packages. This familiarisation activity will allow for the Brazilian operators to learn and understand about the Guyana and Rupununi tourism products they intend to market as part of their packages. In addition, Brazilian officials and Visit Rupununi representatives began talks to explore the establishment of a tourist information centre in the border town of Bonfim, the statement said.
The statement noted that the conference was organised by Visit Rupununi in collaboration with the Department of Tourism for Roraima, the Vice Consul of Brazil to Guyana, the Consul General of Guyana to Brazil and Conservation International-Guyana (CI-Guyana). This collaborative effort was regarded, by participants, as a timely and significant step in developing the cross border tourism sectors in Guyana’s Region Nine and its neighbouring state Roraima in Brazil, the statement said.
It noted that Visit Rupununi was established in 2015 as a membership based organisation which would function as a destination management organization to market the services of its members, offering support through training and capacity building and representing the Rupununi as a whole. The event was supported by CI-Guyana under its “Leveraging Natural Capital in Guyana’s Rupununi” project.