By Natasha Smith-Thomas
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – Deputy Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) Kamrul Baksh has lauded the contributions of indigenous Guyanese to the development and expansion of the tourism industry.
With Guyana positioned as a nature-adventure destination, he said culture remains a major part of robust and competitive tourism products, for which many awards have been won.
Baksh said the GTA and the ministry of tourism industry and commerce acknowledge the work done by communities over the past decades, “… and we will continue to support the communities that want to get into the business of tourism so that we could become a more globally competitive destination,” Baksh said during an interview with DPI on Thursday.
He noted that there are tangible benefits of community-owned tourism. He said tourism is more sustainable as it allows residents to remain in the community and work. “They appreciate owning something, they appreciate having the exposure,” Baksh added, noting that the benefits of tourism in indigenous communities are both direct and indirect, and benefit a wide cross-section of society.
The GTA has been working with indigenous communities across the country developing their ideas and creating tourist packages, while facilitating training where necessary.
“We’ve developed and shared with those communities, guidelines. It acts as a code of conduct, for example when a local person goes to a community, you should seek permission before taking a photo of a person. These are general mannerisms that should be instituted, but it’s often overlooked, so I would urge one to be very respectful to the host, you’re entering into an indigenous community, there are certain cultural sensitivities that need to be maintained as well and need to be respected,” Baksh noted.
Community-led frameworks empower indigenous communities to own and manage tourism enterprises by themselves. Baksh said this makes Guyana a truly unique destination as in other parts of the world there is more of a “mixed” model.
He said the development of community-owned tourism is also supported by the ministry of tourism industry and commerce’s department of tourism, the ministry of Amerindian affairs, the travel trade industry and other partners.
“If you feel that there is potential to create tourism experiences, authentic experiences, reach out to the Guyana Tourism Authority, we will review it, we can come and do a tourism product assessment, to ascertain the viability of tourism within the community and then we can make recommendations and provide adequate feedback to you,” Baksh said.