Why Do Travelers To South America Forget About Guyana?
Published on February 12, 2010
I work in the travel biz and happen to be making my 3rd trip to Guyana this spring in as many years. I have been consistently surprised by the mental shut-off I observe in travel editors, adventure travel companies, and otherwise adventurous individual travelers when I talk about visiting Guyana. Perhaps it is precisely because the collective imagination has nothing to grab on to when the country name comes up (except for - sigh - Jonestown). Those who happen to have caught the BBC "Lost Land of the Jaguar" series, or Herzog's "White Diamond" react differently: their imaginations have been fed just enough to engender curiosity rather than a blank stare. Then there is the nearly universal belief that Guyana is in Africa.... (headdslap)
As someone who promotes tourism in Guyana, I share a typical Guyanese concern that the country will eventually 'turn hot' and many of its most charming qualities will get lost in the stampede (for example, when you fly in to Kaieteur Falls, all you see is the tiny airstrip and the falls: no tour busses, no OSHA-mandated observation decks, no postcard touts, etc). Indeed, it's a fine line between encouraging sustainable development through ecotourism and creating a destructive economy that feeds on tourism. Fortunately, most Guyanese are conscious and wary of the latter.
The conundrum, then, is to make Guyana more popular... but not too much.