Local people need to be involved in tourism
Stabroek News
May 26, 2002

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Dear Editor,

A dip in the cool black water, abundant flora and fauna, virgin rainforest waiting to explored, spectacular waterfalls, a variety of cultural attractions and accommodation - these are some of the ingredients that make up a successful vacation destination in Guyana. This would be a destination in which the visitor feels welcome and has a sense of security and of safety. This is what we all hope for in Guyana, but it will only come about if locals are totally involved in the tourism product. Then we will see an interaction between locals and foreigners that will create an aura of welcome and many trips to the bank by the owners of the respective resorts.

Much talk is being made of the development of sustainable tourism in Guyana. The only way this can be made possible is through the involvement of our local people. They must begin to feel the effects of tourism in their pockets, on their tables and see it reflected in their environment.

Many of us feel that the involvement of locals in tourism lies with the government, this is not so. We must give thought to the fact that the private sector should be doing their best to develop a sound relationship with the locals, because ultimately they will benefit. When tourism flourishes, the whole economy flourishes, we sell more gas, more food, more entertainment, everyone benefits.

As for our guests, they would feel safe and we would not need classes teaching locals how to smile, since we would have given them a reason for doing so - in their pockets. Getting locals involved is probably a missing ingredient in the tourism success recipe.

Sustainable tourism ventures can only come about with the help of the private sector, which would lead to the unlocking of the potential inherent in the local communities. There are a number of ways in which the private sector could help, such as:

*sourcing foods and services from the local community;

*ensuring that locals from the community are employed:

*assisting with skills training and upgrading:

*Identifying opportunities for local producers - eg fresh provisions, vegetables;

* Introducing new services to guests, eg (cooking classes for local dishes, story telling, traditional games);

*encouraging staff and locals to be guests at the facility.

The strategic approach to local involvement should not be aid to the communities, but key developments in the relevant communities. The future of tourism in Guyana would then be assured.

Yours faithfully,

Leslie Bonner