Tales of the fabled El Dorado, the city of gold, have for centuries dazzled explorers around the world and the lure is there again with Guyana moving to tap the full potential of its pristine forests.
These tropical rainforests cover almost 80 per cent of the country and are still largely untouched, offering untold natural wonders including breathtaking landscapes and myriad ranges of biodiversity. The nine indigenous Amerindian tribes who have lived in the forests and on savannah lands for centuries, have maintained their cultures which have survived despite blends with modern
society and tourists will find much to savour from visits to these communities.
Eco-tourism is also developing as an important aspect of the tourism sector. A lot of what Guyana can offer discerning tourists
is unfolding in the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) in which maintaining forests is a centrepiece.
Since 2006, the Guyana Government has been calling for bold action by rainforest nations and international partners to address
deforestation as a key element in the global climate change efforts.
President Bharrat Jagdeo has stated that if the right economic incentives are created, Guyana would be willing to consider
placing almost its entire rainforest under internationally verifiable protection, provided national sovereignty and the rights of all
Guyanese are not undermined.
The impact of what the LCDS offers tourism, among other key economic sectors, was evident at the formal launching of the
draft document on June 8 at the International Convention Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.
After President Jagdeo’s formal presentation, Paul Stephenson, Chief Executive Officer of Cara Hotels, was among those very
optimistic about the LCDS.
“I was very impressed by the initiative as presented by the President”, he said. “I feel it will have very positive effects on Guyana’s tourism industry, hotels and eco-tourism activities. This will place Guyana on a new level of international acceptance in the green policies and any discerning eco-tourist will derive great comfort from such strong governmental policies”, he added. The global eco-tourism market is about US$50 billion (or 6 per cent of the $860 billion general tourism market) but is growing rapidly (20-30 per cent per year).
The LCDS identifies tourism as a priority potential growth area. Guyana has recognised that although standing forests provide enormous Economic Value to the World (EVW) through environmental services such as biodiversity and water regulation, in practical terms there is currently only one potential market of real importance for an environmental commodity –the carbon market.
The LCDS outlines the way forward and the international profiling of Guyana from its climate change leadership is helping to broaden its tourism appeal. The groundbreaking work on avoiding deforestation and forest degradation has been recognised around the world and by reputable personalities including United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Britain’s Prince Charles and actor Harrison Ford, and institutions like the World Bank and the Clinton Foundation.
It is also working with the government of Norway on a model that could set the standard for other forest countries.
This international high profile offers a good marketing tool for operators in the tourism sector looking for green tourism destinations.
Guyana is one of the last almost untouched tropical destinations and interest in it as a land to be explored goes back to the search for El Dorado beyond 1592 when Sir Walter Raleigh tried to regain favour with Britain’s Queen
Elizabeth 1 by trying to discover the fabled city in her name.
Its mystery and allure also inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel `The Lost World’ which also triggered movies that have become classics. Raleigh set off on an unsuccessful expedition to find El Dorado but the LCDS can become the tool to unlock the vastness of the `green gold’ inherent in its pristine forests.