Georgetown, Guyana – From hosting one of Outside magazine’s five best adventure lodges in South America to being featured as one of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s “2011 Tours of a Lifetime,” tourism in Guyana has been at the forefront of leading travel media in recent months. The media’s interest in Guyana has been growing steadily for several years and now the tourism industry’s top media outlets are showcasing the South American country.
The April 2011 issue of Outside magazine claims South America has “arguably more adventure than any other continent.” Listed amongst five of the best adventure lodges on the continent was Guyana’s Karanambu Lodge. The lodge, which is well known for owner Diane McTurk and the work she does with Giant River Otters, was named best for Unexplored Rainforest. Outside says, “The savannah tours, run by the lodge’s naturalist, birding, and indigenous guides, are adventure-packed: go deep in flooded forests, tag caiman with researchers, or hike to Amerindian villages.”
The May/June issue of National Geographic Traveler features their annual “50 Tours of a Lifetime,” which were chosen from thousands of tours worldwide as the antidote to the average. Guyana-based tour operator Wilderness Explorers received due recognition when the magazine pegged their “Amerindian Guyana” trip as a world’s best. The 16-day journey features many of Guyana’s community-run ecolodges, including those at Nappi, Surama, Rewa and Yupukari villages.
Traveler also named the Surama Eco-Lodge as one of the best hotels in South America for their 2011 Stay List. The annual listing chooses “authentic, sustainable hotels…[that] exhibit an extraordinary sense of place, authenticity, a sustainability ethic, and community involvement.” Surama, an Amerindian village in Guyana’s North Rupununi region, also recently received the Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Since 2006, the USAID-funded Guyana Sustainable Tourism Initiative (GSTI) – a joint project of the United States Agency for International Development/Guyana Trade and Investment Support project (USAID/GTIS) and the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) – has been implementing a media strategy with its tourism partners in Guyana that has resulted in top-tier coverage for the previously overlooked destination.
The strategy includes inviting media to experience Guyana’s tourism products firsthand on familiarization trips, attending niche tourism tradeshows that allow for face-to-face networking with media and tour operators, and becoming members of key travel associations, including the Adventure Travel Trade Association and the Educational Travel Community.
The efforts of the GSTI and Wilderness Explorers, the project’s main tour operator partner in Guyana, have resulted in travel stories being published in dozens of online, print and broadcast media outlets, including the New York Times, Wanderlust Magazine, Birdwatch Magazine, Birding Adventures TV Show, Condé Nast Traveller, BBC TV, MSN Travel and on National Public Radio.
When comparing the media coverage to equivalent advertising costs, the value of the media realized is more than US$10 million. But more important is the value the stories and shows hold within the tourism industry. Media coverage – in whatever format – generates interest from potential travelers; travelers’ interest translates into demand, which then further translates into a reason for tour operators around the globe to promote and sell a destination. The end result is an increase in visitors and economic growth within Guyana’s tourism industry.
Recently, Karanambu Lodge garnered additional attention when Dr. Evi Paemalaere, Karanambu Trust resident conservation biologist and jaguar scientist for Panthera – an organization protecting the world’s most endangered cats – captured Karanambu’s first camera trap images of a jaguar. As reported in Panthera’s April 2011 newsletter, the team was delighted to capture a jaguar photo just three days after traps were set. The research is studying the density of jaguar populations at Karanambu and will further highlight the Rupununi Savanna as a globally important biodiversity hotspot.
On Outside magazine’s blog, extreme First Ascent kayaker and photographer Chris Korbulic wrote about a journey to Guyana’s Kaieteur Falls – one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls – for an upcoming season of the Brazilian television show Kaiak. In the post, Korbulic said, “There’s a diving board of rock next to the falls. You can look just past your toes, 740 feet to the pool at the bottom, where water and air explode back up 100 feet before blasting across the pool like a hurricane…letting your shoulders slide over the edge is a feeling unmatched anywhere. The venue was unbelievable, the view unmatched.” View his pictures on the Eddie Bauer First Ascent blog.
Elsewhere on the publishing front, Russ Malkin’s Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures features Guyana, both inside its pages and on the cover with an image of the author and adventure travel expert in front of Kaieteur Falls. Malkin, who has also served as the producer and director for several television travel series, spent several days in Guyana to research his book. Featured are his adventures with the vaqueros at Dadanawa Ranch, taking a jungle survival course at Surama and trekking around Kaieteur Falls.
On television, Guyana was featured in an hour-long episode of the Travel Channel’s The Wild Within. On each show, host Steven Rinella uses his pioneer spirit and outdoor skills to explore cultures that cherish and maintain their hunting, fishing and gathering traditions. In Guyana, Rinella spent several days in the rainforest with Makushi Amerindians from Rewa village. View the episode here.
To assist with ongoing improvements within Guyana’s tourism experiences, USAID is funding a two-week interpretive guide training course in July. For more information on tourism in Guyana, visit www.guyana.travel and www.guyana-travel.com.