Bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname and the Atlantic Ocean, Guyana should be on your radar for those clients who are truly into nature and eco-adventures. Guyana is 80 percent virgin rainforest, and only 7 percent of its coastline is developed. It’s also known as the “Land of the Giants” for its iconic oversize animal species, 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.
Guyana announced plans for a big push into the North American tourism market this summer via new partnerships with Emerging Destinations and Green Team Global. Since then, the country has been working to drive awareness with travel agents and tour operators with a North American roadshow.
“Generally, the travel trade doesn’t yet know Guyana,” says Brian Mullis, director of the Guyana Tourism Authority. “So, when we start explaining that it’s the only English-speaking country in South America, that it’s in the same time zone as New York, that it already has direct flights from New York and Miami, they are immediately intrigued as many of the building blocks of a successful destination are already in place and yet they personally know so little about what the product offering is in Guyana.”
The Tourism Authority just wrapped a nationwide poll that garnered responses from 235 tour operators and travel agents. Ninety-six percent reported interest in adding more destinations in South America to their portfolios, and yet 91 percent did not currently sell Guyana. At the same time, the vast majority reported specific interest among their clients in nature and adventure travel, two areas in which, as noted above, the country has serious potential.
“After educating them a bit on how much Guyana has to offer, 82 percent felt Guyana has strong or very strong potential in the North American market and 79 percent reported interest in learning more and eventually adding Guyana to their product portfolios,” says Mullis of the survey results. “We feel strongly, and this survey indicates the trade agrees, that the largest barrier to success for Guyana is lack of knowledge.”
Since the destination started its North American roadshow, two new companies have started offering tours to Guyana: Kensington Tours and Lost World Adventures. Other tour operators that sell the destination include Adventure Life, Adventures Abroad, Audley Travel, Birding Ecotours, 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 and Zegrahm. A few other companies are also planning to start offering tours, Mullis says.
In terms of accommodations, the country is primarily notable for its ecolodges. Three new hotel and resort developments are in various stages of development, Mullis says, and an indigenous community called Warapoka will begin hosting visitors in their ecolodge starting this fall.
“They have two harpy eagle’s nests, which is extremely rare, and extremely attractive to birders,” Mullis says. “They are also located near a tarpon hatchery, which is an extremely appealing attraction to those interested in sport fishing.”
The destination currently has direct air access to its capital of Georgetown 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 on November 15, and other airlines, such as Copa Airlines and Caribbean Airlines, are also increasing capacity.