ECO-TOURISM PLAN FOR IWOKRAMA MOVES AHEAD
Alim Hassim Stabroek News September 1998
The Iwokrama Rainforest Programme (IRP) is working on a strategy to develop the eco-tourism potential in Guyana and, in doing so, is seeking partnership with the Government, the private sector and all interested stakeholders.
The Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development (IWOKRAMA and the University of the West Indies Centre for Environment and Development (UWICED), have together come up with a document entitled "Iwokrama Eco-tourism Strategy", which looks at ways by which the ecotourism potential can be developed.
A two-day workshop was held on Wednesday and Thursday last at the Iwokrama Office in Bel Air, at which the document was reviewed by the various stakeholders. A Statement prepared after the workshop, said Iwokrama was particularly well-suited to become involved in eco-tourism.
It added that a series of potential markets exist for eco-tourism in the Iwokrama Forest that include tourists interested in conservation of biodiversity, tropical rainforest research, tropical nature and Guyanese culture.
"In particular, tourist groups linked to education, research and volunteer institutions may be the most appropriate for Iwokrama," the statement said.
Last year Iwokrama received a grant from UWICED under a programme of regional capacity building, administered with assistance form the World Bank and Commonwealth secretariat.
Through that grant Iwokrama hired two consultants to look at the potential for eco-tourism and to give advice on how Iwokrama could realise that potential, David Cassells, Local Director of Iwokrama told reporters on Thursday.
"The report was finished earlier this year and we were keen to bring together a range of stakeholders and interest groups interested in tourism." Cassells said.
Cassells said representatives from the UWICED, the Tourism Association of Guyana (TAG), private sector operators, key representatives of the government and representatives of neighbouring communities to the Iwokrama area, were invited to the workshop to review the document.
The workshop was opened by Tourism Minister, Shree Chan, who echoed the importance eco-tourism potential in Guyana. Father Malcolm Rodriques, a member of the Iwokrama board, also made remarks, "There is a potential that can be realised, but it will require solid planning…" Cassells asserted.
However, he added, that potential was being hampered by many constraints.
"Malaria is present in the Iwokrama Forest and the North Rupununi. However, this problem will be more comprehensively addressed in the next year through a collaborative effort between Iwokrama, the local communities and the Government." The Iwokrama statement said.
There are two major constraints to the development of eco-tourism in the Iwokrama Forest: The difficulty of travelling to the Iwokrama Forest and the need for more specialised training for Iwokrama staff.
Eco-tourism in Guyana, if added, faces the additional constraint of the low international recognition of Guyana as a tourist destination.
Cassells said the workshop brought out the major areas where cooperation was needed to help overcome the constraints. Chan said this year Government hopes to table an Integrated Tourism Plan and Tourism Policy in the National Assembly. "We hope to enact legislation to govern the tourism industry as well as to induce legislation to create a tourism authority, all of which will enhance our work in this sector," the minister said.
He said more emphasis will be placed on investment and marketing promotion next year.