One on One: Guyana’s Plans to Grow in North American Market

Pete Oxford/GTA

A relatively undiscovered country in South America is looking to make a major push into the North American travel market. Travel Agent spoke with Brian Mullis, director of the Guyana Tourism Authority, to learn more about the destination and its plans for marketing and travel agents.

Brian Mullis

“Guyana and Destination Guyana are really entering the global tourism marketplace in a more fundamental manner than ever before,” Mullis says. The country, which is bordered by Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela, just launched a new national tourism website at www.guyana-tourism.com, and it has also hired new market representatives in New York City and Atlanta. The Tourism Authority has also partnered with Emerging Destinations and Green Team Global to represent the country in the United States and Canada.

“We’re recognizing that the U.S. is a core market,” says Mullis. “It just makes sense for us to ramp up our efforts to reach those audiences there that are interested in unique, culture-based, nature-based experiences.”

Later this year the destination plans to host a roadshow in North America to support the travel trade, which will be led by the new market representatives. The Tourism Authority is also planning to host fam trips this fall and winter for U.S.-based agents, as well as to coordinate events, negotiate hotel rates and net rates with tour operators, and offer cooperative marketing and advertising opportunities.

The country is 80 percent pristine, virgin rainforest, and only 7 percent of its coastline is developed, Mullis says. It’s also known as the “Land of the Giants” for its iconic megafauna, including the jaguar, the arapaima (the largest scaled fish in the world), the harpy eagle (the world’s biggest species of eagle), the world’s largest anteater and the world’s largest ants. The country is also a biodiversity hostpot in general, home to 910 bird species alone.

The country’s varying landscapes, which range from mountain ranges to coastline, could also draw nature lovers, Mullis says. Guyana is also home to six cultures and nine different Amerindian groups. “Indigenous tourism is one of the more popular forms of tourism here,” Mullis said.

One key selling point? Guyana’s official language is English, and it’s the only English-speaking country in South America, Mullis says, making it highly accessible to travelers from the United States.

Guyana had 82,000 travelers from the U.S. in 2017, Mullis says, although that number could grow, both due to organic tourism growth as well as growth in the country’s oil and gas sector. The growth is also driving increased airlift, with direct flights to the capital city of Georgetown available from New York – JFK (approximately five and a half hours) and Miami (three to three and a half hours). American Airlines is set to launch its own flight from Miami November 15, and other airlines, such as Copa Airlines and Caribbean Airlines, are also increasing capacity.

The country is currently served by a number of North American tour operators, although Mullis says that they’re looking to add more. Right now the North American tour operators offering packages to Guyana are:

  • Adventure Life
  • Adventures Abroad
  • Audley Travel
  • Birdingecotours
  • Departures Travel
  • Explore Worldwide
  • Explore Worldwide.ca
  • Forbes Travel
  • Go Overseas.com
  • Go Pack (a Division of SITA)
  • Goway
  • Great Expeditions
  • Intrepid Travel
  • Latin America Escapes
  • Sacred Earth Journeys
  • Sunnyland Tours
  • Tours of Exploration
  • Travel Path
  • Travel Tote
  • Tropical Birding
  • Wings
  • Zegrahm

In terms of hotels, the country is home to a number of boutique and eco-friendly properties.

“We’re really strong in ecolodges, particularly those that are community-led and –owned,” Mullis says. “With oil and gas expected to triple GDP as early as 2020 that investment is growing markedly, along with the awareness of the country as a result of that.”

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Guyana Looks to Enter North American Tourism Market