By Isanella Patoir
A resort promising to be the ultimate relaxation space and daytime getaway is scheduled to open by the end of this year at Fort Island, located about 40 minutes from Parika along the Essequibo River.
The ‘Fort Island Resort’ is being developed at a cost of $26 million by overseas-based Guyanese Keith Eytle, 67, and his brother, 74-year-old Gordon Eytle. It is a first for the island.
Once completed, the resort will have five fully furnished suites with ventilation and air-conditioning; an open gazebo, a benab, restaurant and bar.
The resort promises a lush getaway experience from city life; apart from the distant sound of engine boats, visitors will only hear the singing and chirping of birds.
The resort also overlooks the mighty Essequibo River where gorgeous sunsets will not disappoint. The cuisine will reflect Guyana’s rich cultures made with fresh produce grown on the island.
Fort Island has no electricity, but this is no concern for the developers. They have already installed solar panels as part of promoting their ‘green’ resort initiative.
Keith said he will be employing five permanent staff including a maintenance manager, a bartender and kitchen staff. These positions will only be offered to Fort Islanders.
Plans for the resort started five years ago but construction was stymied due to poor labour. During a recent visit to the island, Keith told the News Room that they wanted to employ only persons from the Island and they did initially, but they soon found out they lack the much-needed skills.
As such, his brother, Gordon took the job up himself. Gordon spent most of his life working as a civil engineer in the United Kingdom and in early 2000, he remigrated to Guyana.
“After we went away and came back, things were not the same as the way we left it so we started to look at the island as a whole to get roads improved and things like that,” Gordon said.
The project was further put on pause when the COVID-19 pandemic hit these shores in March 2020. The developers said they could not get permits to continue the construction.
Now, the resort is nearing completion and the brothers have already earmarked another $12 million to extend the resort to another part of the island. This extension will be in close proximity to the historic Fort Zeelandia.
“I remember as a young boy this place was the centre for the Islands, at the back there we had a cricket field, a sport field and we had a dancehall,” Keith recalled.
He described Fort Island as a ‘gem’ and said it has lots of history for him and his brothers. Another brother, Michael, passed away in 2010 after he suffered a stroke. It was always his dream to return to Guyana and develop Fort Island. The Eytle brothers, who were all born on Fort Island, left Guyana some 50 years ago for the UK.
“After he [Michael] died, I thought I needed to do something to honour him and part of it is to do farming and also to build a resort.
“So we started to do this resort to attract people to come here, I don’t know if it will work, I am hoping it will work,” Keith explained.
Keith is an aircraft engineer and has no experience in the tourism and hospitality sector. He said it is not about making money but attracting people to the island. He has since created a website which has already garnered positive responses from people in Holland and Germany.
“They have actually contacted me and say when it is open please give us all the information, so I have created a website and I’ve got a Facebook page so we will see what happens,” Keith said.
In terms of prices, the charge for one night will be between G$8,000 and $10,000. There will also be tour packages catering for tourist attraction sites in the Essequibo and Mazaruni Rivers.
Fort Island once served as the capital of Essequibo and Demerara colonies during the 16th and 17th Century. The island has been attracting tourists from all over the world with its Dutch imprints in the forms of: Fort Zeelandia, built in 1744 to protect the interest of the Dutch West India Company and the Court of Policy hall which was built eight years later.
The Court of Policy is one the oldest structure in Guyana; it has served as a Church, Court House, and Venture Office and is now a Dutch Heritage Museum.