Tourism Authority Tour Guide training seeking to spark interest in neglected sector

Baganara Island Report

Against the backdrop of what it says is its focus on meeting international tourism standards, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) this week disclosed that it had executed a training exercise between August 13th and 17th, in the North Rupununi, designed to move the country’s tourism sector towards meeting the international Adventure Travel Guide Standard.  

In a release issued earlier this week, the GTA said that its forum titled, ‘Raising the Bar for Adventure and Ecotourism Guiding’ which was held in the North Rupununi region, targeted “pre-qualified tour guides.” It also included a Master Training exercise for four local Guide Trainers who have been identified to undertake future training exercises.  

With an eye to meeting international tourism standards and better equipping the country to meaningfully tap into the lucrative adventure and ecotourism market, the release notes that the training initiative had been undertaken against the backdrop of the rapid growth of the industry which it said had jumped from an estimated US$89 billion in 2010 to US$263 billion in 2013, and is expected to realize a compound annual growth rate of 45.99% between 2016-2020.

The training initiative comes against the backdrop of the announcement made just over a month ago of the appointment of Sustainable Tourism Specialist, Brian Mullis as Director of the Authority. During a meeting with Stabroek Business, Mullis had pointed to what he said was the considerable potential market which Guyana’s adventure and ecotourism resource represents to an international market comprising, what the GTA release says, is a “growing number of adventure travellers seeking personal growth, new destinations and immersive culture.”

Critical to significantly raising the country’s profile as a high-quality adventure and ecotourism travel destination, Adventure Travel Guide competencies deemed essential to global customer appeal include wilderness medicine and first aid skills, customer service and group management skills, natural and cultural history content, interpretation and delivery skills.

The GTA release said that the focus of its training exercise was on “how the guide naturally fits in with the overall adventure experience; the importance and psychology of customer service; storytelling and interpretation; and the concept and importance of sustainable practices.” It added that one of the short-term goals of the training exercise was “to elevate Guyana’s current tour guide standards, with the long-term goal of building existing capacity to train future adventure travel guides.”

 According to Mullis, while the GTA is “focused on raising tourism standards in the country to meet international travellers’ expectations and international standards,” observers will be looking for a definitive shift in the Government of Guyana’s policy posture to the sector.  Long touted as a potential lucrative foreign currency earner for Guyana, it has suffered from considerable official neglect over the years, despite a fair measure of private sector investment. “We have formally committed to adhering to the principles of the Adventure Travel Guide Standard and implementing its requirements,” Mullis says, in the release.

Going forward, both the local tourism sector and the Government of Guyana will be challenged to persuade an increasingly enlightened international tourism market that it is at the point of making a sustained quantum shift in its commitment to creating an infrastructure that is responsive to the requirements of international standards in adventure and eco -tourism.

‘With only an estimated one-hundred and fifty guides in Guyana, who conduct tours independently or for local tour companies and lodges, it is important that they be equipped to provide exceptional experiences for their guests.  The course offered by Guyana Tourism Authority was centred on building domestic capacity to train existing and future world class guides,” the release said.

 

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