Tourism is Guyana’s third most important economic sector. Every year, tourism accounts for more than $30 billion of the nation’s GDP. Unlike gas, oil, and gold, tourism is non-extractive, meaning that it has the potential to far outlive these industries.
In this article, we look at Guyana’s tourism industry, focusing on sustainable tourism and government initiatives to promote ecotourism over the long term.
Guyana’s government created a Strategic Action Plan to boost sustainable tourism.
Guyana’s Tourism Strategic Action Plan 2019-2025 was implemented to protect the nation’s wealth of cultural and natural heritage, ringfencing these valuable assets to benefit future generations, while at the same time promoting tourism to benefit the economy.
The Strategic Action Plan’s ultimate aim is to help Guyana realize its goal of establishing itself as a Green State, and cement the country’s reputation as the leading sustainable tourism destination in the South American/Caribbean region.
The Guyanese government recognizes the importance of multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial collaboration in realizing the true potential of the tourism and travel sector. The government, businesses, and industry organizations must work together on both a local and national level to develop policies, strategies, and action plans that will help Guyana achieve its Sustainable Development Goals.
Guyana is an ecologically rich, biodiverse country.
Boasting an exceptional array of unusual plant and wildlife, Guyana is home to some of the world’s most well-preserved rainforests. The country’s geography also includes coastal plains, a hilly region with clay and sandy soil, and drier interior savannahs in addition to jungle-covered mountains.
By the numbers, Guyana’s biodiversity is impressive; the country is home to:
- 8,000 plant species
- 467 fishes
- 130 amphibians
- 179 reptiles
- 814 birds
- 225 mammals
Guyana is also diverse in terms of its people. The population is a true melting pot of people of African, Asian, and European descent, as well as the Akawaio, Warao, Wapishana, Macushi, and other Native Amerindian peoples.
Guyana’s government seeks to improve its tourism infrastructure.
In its Strategic Action Plan, the government sets out several key objectives for its tourism infrastructure, including:
- Expanding airstrips.
- Improving port facilities in Georgetown.
- Improving facilities in the Essequibo River, including developing a deep-water harbor.
- Improving public amenities, such as multilingual signage in major tourism corridors, and improving and increasing restroom facilities throughout the country.
- Improving existing roads and building new ones, including replacing wooden bridges with passes made from concrete, upgrading drainage systems, and improving road access to tourism corridors and major attractions.
- Mandating appropriate conveniences and amenities for disabled people as a prerequisite for the licensing of businesses selling food and drinks.
Guyana has gained a reputation as an up-and-coming ecotourism destination.
Guyana has plenty of attractions that draw vacationers from all over the world. Because it lies off the beaten path for many foreign travelers, it can provide a more natural, authentic alternative to the cookie-cutter, commercial tours often found elsewhere. With pristine rainforests covering as much as 77% of the country, Guyana attracts nature-lovers from all over the world.
While vacationers are enticed to Caribbean islands by the surf and sand, one of Guyana’s key selling points is its biodiversity. Visitors can traipse through open savannahs, watching giant anteaters at dawn; spend the afternoon paddling down one of Guyana’s dozens of rivers; and arrive in the rainforest at dusk, just in time to spot an elusive jaguar—all within 24 hours.
The Guyana Tourism Authority is working to promote the country as a top-tier destination.
For the most part, tourism enterprises are generally run by experienced, knowledgeable locals.
In 2012, the Guyana Tourism Authority initiated major incentives to boost the ecotourism industry. That same year, Guyana’s Rupununi Region was recognized with the Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Since many of the country’s best attractions are in the backcountry, transportation can be an issue.
These remote sites are often reached via air or boat, with the last few miles of the journey often presenting a challenge to even the most seasoned adventurer.
For instance, Kaieteur Falls—the largest single-drop waterfall in the world and one of the country’s most impressive attractions—is accessible only via a small airport located near the falls.
However, this relative inaccessibility also works to protect the falls and the species that make their home beneath its immense curtain of water. Overtourism could damage the sensitive environment.
Other natural Guyanese attractions include the Kanuku Mountains and Rupununi.
Famed internationally for its exceptionally diverse range of bird species, the Kanuku Mountains is also home to 80% of all of Guyana’s mammals. Dissected by the Rupununi River, a tributary of the Essequibo, the Kanuku Mountains boast many trails, making the region particularly appealing to hikers and naturalists.
The Rupununi Region is an area of grasslands and wooded hills sometimes called the “Serengeti of South America.” It comprises several important Amerindian villages, as well as a few large cattle ranches. This spectacularly beautiful region is home to a variety of wildlife.
GBTI is proud to support the nation’s burgeoning ecotourism industry.
In 2019, Guyana was the proud recipient of the Best Ecotourism Destination Award at the Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards.
As the nation’s longest-serving financial services provider, GBTI supports the country’s sustainable tourism industry, endorsing a variety of initiatives to help promote Guyana and its many natural attractions.