Providence, RHODE ISLAND – From February 16-20, more than 400 travel planners, suppliers, tour operators, media and destinations from 41 countries gathered in Providence, Rhode Island for the 25th annual Educational Travel Conference (ETC). Organized by the Educational Travel Community, the ETC is the founding conference for travel professionals involved in alumni, museum, zoo, conservation, and nonprofit educational travel.
For the second consecutive year, the Guyana Sustainable Tourism Initiative (GSTI), a joint project of the Guyana Tourism Authority and the United States Agency for International Development / Guyana Trade and Investment Support project (USAID/GTIS), promoted Guyana’s tourism products at the conference.
The ETC provides an excellent platform for introducing Guyana to new tour operators, trip planners and media partners, as well as meeting with those companies that are currently selling Guyana. Over the course of 40 meetings, GSTI tourism specialist Judy Karwacki, emphasized how Guyana’s unique and authentic character can be experienced through nature, culture, history, adventure and learning.
J. Mara DelliPriscoli, President of Travel Learning Connections and founder of the Educational Travel Conference, was pleased to see Guyana in attendance for the second year. Likewise, many of the delegates who schedule a meeting to learn about Guyana also enthusiastically acknowledged the country as an important and relevant new destination for the educational traveler.
Travel planners and tour operators said that the market is interested in unique destinations that few others travel to, but noted that it can be difficult to sell clients on an unknown destination such as Guyana. They emphasized the need to generate media and PR to build a profile and demand for Guyana within the North American market.
The tour operators and planners attending ETC were impressed with the wide variety of opportunities to immerse their client groups into the rich biodiversity and unique culture of Guyana. Popular options included the chance to meet fascinating local characters such as Diane McTurk, owner of Karanambu Lodge; being able to spend time in indigenous communities like Surama; and the possibility to design programs in partnership with conservation leaders like the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development.
Carrie McDougal, operator of Cultural Crossroads said, “It’s so exciting to see Guyana emerge in the tourism market. I plan to introduce several clients to the diverse offerings from this exciting destination.” Roberta DeVries of Philadelphia Zoo stated they were very interested in exploring Guyana as a new destination for their conservation-focused tour programs. The representatives of the Museum for African Art and Travelinque both said they were interested in possibilities for programs combining Afro-Guyana culture, arts and history with nature experiences. Other interested operators that are an excellent fit for Guyana included Global Adrenaline and Journey 360 Degrees.
ETC is also integrating more responsible sustainable tourism into their initiatives, and is planning to expand their annual Responsible Tourism Showcase Award, which was awarded to Surama Eco-Lodge – a community-run tourism product in Guyana – in 2009. Ms. Karwacki was invited to attend the Responsible Travel Committee meeting to help brainstorm future initiatives, which will help to boost Guyana’s profile as a leading responsible tourism destination within the ETC Community.
To further promote Guyana, Ms. Karwacki will be leading a workshop on experiential tourism at the 12th annual Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development. The workshop, titled “Haven’t Been There, Done That: How Experiential Tourism is Transforming the Travel Experience,” will draw upon lessons learned from the success of the Guyana Sustainable Tourism Initiative. It will also highlight Guyana’s experience with indigenous tourism development, a niche market that the CTO is interested in developing. The conference will take place from April 3-6, 2011 in Bermuda.
The Guyana Sustainable Tourism Initiative is a joint project of the Guyana Tourism Authority and the United States Agency for International Development/Guyana Trade and Investment Support (USAID/GTIS) project. For more information on tourism in Guyana, visit www.guyanabirding.com, www.guyana-tourism.com and www.guyana.travel.