‘Value the product!’ – Walrond says citizens paying for chance at visas but not local tourism
By Kurt Campbell
Guyana is observing the calendar event of Tourism Month, celebrated each year in November, but even with foreigners paying premium prices to enjoy what can be largely described as rural tourism, subject minister Oneidge Walrond is calling out her fellow countrymen and women on their lack of value for the local product.
During a media safari/familiarization tour along the Essequibo Coast and other parts of Region Two (Pomeroon- Supenaam) on Friday, Walrond said she believes that more needs to be done to get Guyanese to understand and cherish the country’s tourism product.
“We find that Guyanese don’t really understand this precious product we have here in Guyana called tourism,” she said while delivering brief remarks at Lake Capoey.
To put it simply, she said it was a bread and butter issue for the people behind the community-led service sector. Minister Walrond believes supporting local tourism is important for bolstering economic activity in rural communities.
Pointing out that the product in its raw and pristine form might need some improvements and upselling, the Tourism Minister cautioned against dwelling on the negative.
“We know that we are starting from scratch and there are things that need to be done… let’s not try to always highlight the negative.
“Guyanese need to appreciate this product… more eyes are being turned to Guyana and people are paying a premium price to come and I say that to say that we have to value what we have,” she added.
To make her point, Minister Walrond recalled a recent comment on social media where it was noted how expensive it was for public servants to travel around Guyana for tourism purposes.
“I hasten to say when people see the value then is when they spend their money.
“People pay $40,000 for an application for a visa and the application doesn’t guarantee you entry but they are ok to spend on a chance because they see value in that,” she added.
Walrond said Guyanese must take the same chance to “get familiar with Guyana’s tourism.”
The minister also called on the operators of tourist destinations like lodges and resorts to also do what is necessary to improve the experience of tourists.
She said the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce was already helping in that regard. According to Walrond, there is ongoing cross-agency collaboration to improve public infrastructure which would also bolster rural/eco-tourism and support the government’s push to tap into agro-tourism.
But there is a bright side to things; Walrond has testified to the influx of foreigners here to partake in tourist activities like bird watching.
“Foreigners are more excited… I just really want us to appreciate this beautiful country and sell our product as pristine as it is.”
She made reference to Dubai and said it was amazing how the country built the economy by relying to a large extent on tourism. Walrond said too that Guyana’s open spaces remain perfect for enjoying tourist activity.