From time to time I hear from readers of this space saying that they enjoy the columns but suggest I should use some of them to focus on “feel good” stories, like the one last week about Fay James, the nature tourism lady running a successful nature-tourism business in a lodge on an island in the upper reaches of the Essequibo River. As it turns out, by total coincidence, hard on the heels of that piece, we have news this week that in the face of strong competition from several world-known tourism destinations, Guyana had been named the number one “Best Ecotourism Destination” in the world. That’s right, bredrin: Number One!
Stabroek News and other local media outlets were this week informing us that on March 6th, Guyana had achieved a singular distinction in the tourism world when the country was declared the #1 “Best of Ecotourism” destination in the world at the ITB Berlin, (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) the world’s leading travel and trade show, and the mecca for tourism ministries of governments around the Caribbean. Companies represented at the annual fair usually include hotels, tourism boards, tour operators, system providers, airlines and car rental companies. The Award, presented at the ITB’s second annual “Best of Top 100,” was the highlight of an event that featured the top 100 destinations selected by a panel of experts who reviewed sustainability success stories submitted by destinations worldwide. I know about the ITB from the years when I lived in the tourism-driven Cayman Islands, and believe me: this is a phenomenal achievement for Guyana just on the cusp of its own tourism upsurge. The newly-created “Best of Ecotourism” category was added in 2019 and Guyana’s win comes ahead of many long-standing ecotourism destinations, including the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Sierra Gorda in Mexico, as well as the widely recognised Indonesia and Malaysia. The Sustainable Destinations Top 100 competition is organised by twelve of the most prominent organisations leading the global sustainable tourism movement. It is a signal honour to be a country making it into the Top 100 category, and press reports said the Awards Jury had been impressed by the presentation prepared by Guyana’s Tourism Authority (GTA) and by information supplied regarding the community-led and owned Surama and Rewa eco-lodges in the Rupununi. The GTA has emphasized that it is focused on attracting travellers interested in authentic nature-based, cultural and adventurous experiences in its core markets in North America and the UK, and in investment markets such as Germany and the Netherlands. Our Ministry with responsibility for Tourism must be popping champagne over this honour
More positive news for Guyana came this week when online reports told us that Guyanese-born economist Kerwin Charles has been named the new Dean of the Yale School of Management (SOM) in the USA. Charles, a renowned economist and award-winning educator, is expected to take up the post on July 1, 2019 according to the university newspaper YaleNews. It reports that during his scholarly career, Charles, the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of the Harris School of Public Policy, has studied and published on topics including earnings and wealth inequality, conspicuous consumption, race and gender labour market discrimination, the intergenerational transmission of economic status, worker and family adjustment to job loss and health shocks, non-work among prime-aged persons, and the labour market consequences of housing bubbles and sectoral change. His many academic leadership roles have also included running centres and programmes within the Harris School and serving as the school’s deputy dean and later its interim dean. Big up Mr. Charles, please. Although not solely a Guyana story, another “feel good” item I came across this week involves an organisation known as 4OCEAN which is a global movement directly involved with removing trash from the ocean and coastlines. Headed up by three Americans (Andrew Cooper; Alex Schulze; Tony Chvala) 4OCEAN is based in Boca Raton, Florida, but operates out of several countries to do its ocean trash collecting and employs over 150 people worldwide. Their website tells us 16 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean each year, and to date 4OCEAN has pulled over 4 million pounds of trash from the ocean. To help fund the organisation’s work, you can purchase a very attractive bracelet made with recycled ocean plastic and glass recovered by their staff. It costs US$20, with a beautiful design, and every bracelet purchased means you paid for the removal of 2 pounds of trash from the ocean, so if you’re feeling cashy, you can account for 4 pounds, or more. In a time when we, here in Guyana, are expressing concerns about sea-water rise and garbage in the ocean as we contemplate the coming oil economy in our waters, 4OCEAN struck me as something worth supporting. I bought a bracelet, a gift for my wife, and I’m strutting over doing my “two pounds” worth of trash extraction. It’s such a simple story, with a wonderful outcome: Google 4OCEAN, buy a bracelet and help to get the trash out.
Before I go, on a totally different subject, but still in the “feel good” category the readers are interested in, let me send you in the direction of music online where there is a superb, truly superb, recording by Jennifer Hudson doing a masterful interpretation of The Impossible Dream from the play Man of La Mancha. The performance is superb, and I guarantee that the lady’s vocal range will astound you; play it until the very last unbelievable high note. Check it out, bredrin; you will thank me.