The breathtaking view of the sprawling savannah or the mesmerising Kumu or Moco Moco falls in the Kanuku mountain range in the Rupununi signals that you’re in a place with great tourism potential.
Quite surprisingly though, it is yet to be discovered by many and Colin Edwards, the new Director of Tourism for the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), is determined to change that.
In an interview with Stabroek News, Edwards, a British national who operates the Rock View Lodge located between Annai and Rupertee, said that the Rupununi has much to offer.
He said that apart from birding and viewing of jaguars and other wildlife, “There is the people, the cultural diversity, the habitat and events like the rodeo, to look forward to.”
He noted that in the South Pakarima, there are some of the most beautiful locations for tourism, as well as in Sand Creek, while the “savannah plains make you think you’re in another part of the world.”
There is also an opportunity for visitors to cross the Takutu Bridge at the border town of Lethem to Bon Fim, Brazil.
At the September, 2009 opening of the bridge, then president Bharrat Jagdeo had emphasised that it was an opportunity to improve trade and economic relations between the two countries.
Edwards described Lethem as the tourism hub for the Rupununi, which continues to attract many Brazilian visitors who support the local businesses. But to encourage the Brazilians and other tourists to keep coming, Edwards said, the town needs to be developed.
“How do you design a town that is user-friendly, that is family-friendly, that is respectful to the environment? Brazil has an awful lot to offer and they are happy to help. We have to learn from others,” he said, while adding,. “We are very keen on developing our own marketing and our own support in the Rupununi.”
A director of the Tourism Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG), he also recognises the importance of developing the tourism industry regionally and is working very hard to bring additional help to the industry.
“We have a corridor: the Caribbean with the sun, sand and sea and Guyana with the rainforest, the culture, the biodiversity, the wildlife experience and Brazil,” he noted.
Four years ago, Edwards was instrumental in holding the first Three-Nation Tourism Conference in Boa Vista, bringing together the private and public sectors of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana.
It enabled the private and public sectors to understand what they’re doing in order to make tourism more effective and easier to happen.
Traditionally, Guyana has been marketing itself to northern Europe and North America. He sees the Rupununi as the focus because that is what Guyanese and visitors from North America and Europe want to see.
“Guyana has a phenomenal tourism potential but we have to make the potential work. We forever talk about potential, we can’t wait any longer,” he said.
Edwards said too that this is an “agricultural country but what we haven’t learnt is to blend agriculture with tourism. Agro-tourism is a field that is open for all of us to get involved. At Rock View, it adds value to our farm and farm produce.” He has established a kitchen garden and fish farm at Rock View Lodge, where he has employed people from six different villages, including Konashen.