Overseas Guyanese should be our main tourist market
Stabroek News
April 5, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I think Minister of Tourism Manzoor Nadir and the country have got it badly wrong on tourism. They're barking up the wrong greenheart in trying to attract thousands of innocent eco-tourists to El Dorado... It simply ain't going to work. Sorry.

Let me share two experiences this week. The first personal, the second national. My cousin Alison has not been back to Guyana since she was a little girl thirty years ago. Yet, there she was having dinner with me in the Peg-A-Sus last Wednesday night. She and her husband, Joe, are here with thirty other couples from Toronto, all Guyanese in origin. Sampling the delights of Shanklands and Baganara for the Easter weekend. She's here for two weeks and told me she will spend getting on for US$4000. for her families vacation. She was in Nirvana, coming back to the land of her birth. It was pure memory lane but great memories and she may come again. For every Alison, there are thousands more like her in the New York, Miami and Toronto diasporas. They just need to be tapped up.

Meanwhile, there you were on the `Clipper Adventure' stuck on a sandbank in Essequibo with over one hundred American eco-tourists. They'd come in the first ever cruise ship in Guyanese waters (and on our sandbanks too) to look for flora, fauna and Kaiteur. They thought it was wonderful and said so (but then they were mainly Americans so what else would you expect...) Everybody seemed excited at this moment of Evergreen hope. It looked like Guyana might have cracked the big one: the international eco-tourist market. The floodgates would soon be opening if they already had not. A brave new world round the corner. But one Cock-of-the-Rock signing on Kaiteur does not make a summer. You are chasing a chimera there. An illusion. In eco-tourism, today's hot spot is tomorrow's icicle.

Rethink the strategy whilst you can. Think of cousin Alison. Think of the massive numbers in the diaspora. Think of their residual sentiments for `My Guyana'. Think of their disposable wealth and how you and our tourist industry might get your hands on some of it. A Guyanese (even an overseas Guyanese) bird in the hand is worth several eco-tourist birds in the bush. It's not late to change direction. About turn, Manzoor. Guyana will benefit.

Yours faithfully,

John Mair