By Vishani Ragobeer in Lethem
After a two-year hiatus prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rupununi Rodeo returned on Saturday, bringing together scores of people but not without calls for a greater level of investment to expand this unique tourism product.
The Rupununi rodeo features vaqueros (or cowboys and cowgirls, as they are more commonly known) from across Region Nine. For two days, usually at the Easter weekend, hundreds of people gather to witness individuals showcase various skills at taming calves, bulls and horses.
The rodeo also offers residents there, who are primarily indigenous people, the opportunity to showcase the best of their food, craft and culture.
Region Nine’s Vice Chairman Bertie Xavier said that the return of the rodeo has brought with it a “spirit of reunion and unity” within the region, one that also indicates that economic activity in the region is slowly being revitalised.
It was President Dr. Irfaan Ali, in brief remarks, who spoke about the region’s economic development and touted the possibility of expanding it into one of the Caribbean’s premier tourism events.
“(The rodeo) can stand side-by-side with the best of cricket and the best of racing in the region,” President Ali declared at the Lethem rodeo ground on Saturday.
What is needed, the President said, however, is a greater level of investment to expand the annual activity.
“Building a product like this requires investment, making Rupununi and rodeo a staple product requires investment,” the President said emphatically.
Already, he said that the government is investing in the necessary infrastructural works such as paving the Linden to Mabura road, and later, the Mabura to Lethem link. The journey to Lethem, via this Linden to Mabura road, currently takes more than 12 hours but parts of the road are often worn down.
Earlier in the day, the President also said that Guyana’s Rupununi can be among the world’s ‘most powerful’ tourism products if twinned with the tourism product of northern Brazil.
Adding to the President’s remarks was the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond, who said that the return of the rodeo saw a greater demand for accommodation that existing hotels and guesthouses could not have accommodated.
As such, she called on investors to invest in more accommodation spaces in the region, particularly amid efforts to boost the marketing of the Rupununi rodeo across the Caribbean and even internationally.
Aside from expanding the marketing, Minister Walrond also said that the government was investing in training more indigenous people in the region in hospitality skills to prepare them for the forthcoming uptake in tourism activity in the region.
Meanwhile, President Ali also donated $1 million to the Rupununi Rodeo committee and promised continuous support in cash and kind on an annual basis.