Media have vital role to play in tourism industry
by Matt Falloon
December 6, 2000
It seems the press will play a vital role in the tourism industry if travel agents and ministers have their way.
Tourism industry representatives and a group of journalists were treated to a day out at the Shanklands Rainforest Resort, Essequibo, as an exercise to promote co-operation and competition in that industry.
Yet before even lunch was served the day became a forum for the responsibilities of the media in that industry. Max and Joanne Jardim began carving Shanklands out of the bush 17 years ago. Over the years they have produced a serene setting housing both luxury and budget accommodation facilities, from honeymoon suite to dormitory-style. Some of the pioneers of the Guyanese tourist industry have succeeding in creating a private, safe and comfortable holiday zone on the edge of the interior.
It should be the perfect launching pad for adventure tourists and local getaways.
However, attracting a constant stream of customers has proved tricky. Joanne explained that the resort was initially intended for Guyanese, so that they might invest in their own country and see more of it than just the sea wall. The problem, however, is that most Guyanese tend to look abroad when making holiday plans rather than to possibilities in their own country.
This has led local resort operators to directly target regional travel agents with the hope that they will direct Guyanese inward for their holiday as opposed to the Caribbean, the US or Canada. It is also expected that government and private initiatives will start to make the country a more attractive proposition for foreign holiday-makers.
Guyana's image across the world is a problem, explained Shanklands General Manager, Bernard Lee Yong. "We need to improve that before we can attract people to come to our country." This is where the role of the press comes in. Minister for Tourism, Trade and Industry, Geoffrey Da Silva, explained that press damage control is a major part of other successful tourism industries in the Caribbean and many of the travel agents murmured their agreement.
In Jamaica there are regular meetings between editors and government, he remarked, in order to know how best to promote the country. If there is a murder in Kingston, it isn't splashed across the front page because that will deter tourists.
There were also complaints of a dearth of travel/feature writing locally, so that people are not properly educated by the media about their own country.
We need to co-operate, Da Silva stated, to improve the standard of living for all Guyanese. He also indicated a leaning toward selling expensive holidays in Guyana to maximise profit margins and economic growth but said little about nurturing the local, more affordable tourism trade for Guyanese, thus the importance of painting Guyana and specifically Georgetown as a harmonious base for tourists.
Yong lamented that much media is based in Georgetown and the major towns so that "all we hear about is crime and politics rather than the good in the rest of the country."
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