By Brian Mullis
Guyana Tourism Authority
Travel and tourism will outperform the global economy throughout the next decade, growing by an expected 3.8% on average annually over the next ten years according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2017 Travel & Tourism Economic Impact World report. To provide some context and insight into the impact of what some consider to be the largest industry in the world, it is estimated that there are 1 in 11 people on the planet whose lives, livelihoods, families and communities depend on travel and tourism. The industry is constantly in a state of flux due to advances in technology, geopolitical issues, and ever-changing consumer demand and preferences.
One aspect of travel that is a constant and is growing is consumer demand for authentic natural heritage and pristine cultural heritage. The combined annual growth rate of nature-based and adventure travel is estimated to be between 10- 30 percent by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and WTTC, with its overall share of the world tourism and travel market currently estimated at between 20-25 percent. With vast expanses of primary tropical forest and other unique ecosystems, immense diversity of flora and fauna, and vibrant cultural heritage, it is a curiosity that Guyana remains a relatively unknown destination in the global tourism marketplace. The fact of the matter is that it is competing with every other destination in the world. With the launch of its new national tourism website this week and having secured market representatives in its core markets in the U.S., Canada and Germany, the Guyana Tourism Authority aims to bring Guyana into the global tourism marketplace in a more meaningful manner than ever before.
The new national tourism website, www.guyana-tourism.com, is designed to raise awareness about Guyana’s distinctive offer and resonate with a highly educated, very well-travelled audience who is seeking out authentic nature, culture, and adventure experiences. This audience needs to know that Guyana offers experiences they can’t find elsewhere, in order to attract them to find out more about whether or not to spend their limited time and hard-earned savings on a relatively expensive trip. Some of the highlighted travel experiences travellers cannot find anywhere else include abseiling Mount Roraima, caiman tagging at night, seeing Kaieteur Falls from a plane, and experiencing the daily ranch life of vaquero and Guyana’s unique indigenous villages.
With the scaling-up of GTA’s marketing initiatives comes a need to raise tourism standards and strengthen the tourism product offering. The GTA is actively working on revising its licensing system to help improve standards and is facilitating new product development based on market demand, market access and Guyana’s strengths. Significant opportunities exist within nature, cultural and adventure tourism. One of the most appealing is within receptive indigenous communities that have been inspired by the success of community-led and owned tourism enterprises like Surama Eco-lodge, Rewa Eco-lodge, and Caiman House. Market demand for indigenous tourism is exemplified by the fact that the thematic video the GTA developed earlier this year is rapidly approaching one million views.
The GTA’s increasing emphasis on product development is timely. The increase in visitation to Guyana is resulting in an increase in market demand for new products. An estimated 10-20 percent of travelers visiting Guyana and the thousands of expatriates that are currently living in or planning to move to Guyana due to the oil and gas industry are seeking out tourism activities. Whether it’s over a weekend, a multi-day holiday, or just a new experience, Guyana needs an accessible tourism product that meets an international standard and reflects travellers growing interest in authentic experiences.
Taking Guyana’s tourism marketing efforts to the next level and creating new products to respond to growing market demand will take time. With new leadership at the GTA and a dedicated team, positive change is occurring which will incrementally help Guyana’s tourism sector to realize its potential.
Brian T. Mullis is a destination management specialist with more than 25 years of experience in sustainable development, conservation and tourism. Prior to assuming the role of Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority, he founded and led Sustainable Travel International, a global leader in the responsible tourism movement. Mullis also owned and operated an international ecotourism and adventure travel company.
The Stabroek Business has agreed to publish once monthly articles authored by Mr. Mullis on tourism development in Guyana.