Elite Kayaking, Wanderlust Adventures making headway in Tourism Industry
The gradual reopening of the local tourism industry, has resulted in several businesses making strides in providing local and international visitors – though not on a large scale- with outdoor tourism experiences, while adhering to the Covid guidelines.
The Tourism Industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 Pandemic, not only in Guyana but around the world.
Guyana, in recent times has been doing well with its growing tourism industry and has been making its presence known. Guyana was featured in several top travel publications and also copped several international prizes, including Number One Eco-Tourism Destination.
The Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) has been continuously working with local operators and stakeholders in the hospitality industry to adapt to changes posed by the pandemic, by consistently conducting training and providing support for businesses.
Elite Kayaking and Nature Tours, owned by Deon Anderson, is a tour company operating out of the mining town, Linden.
The business which was started in 2018, stemmed from family and friends just getting together to enjoy the outdoors. After the idea for the business was birthed, Anderson invested in some kayaks and other necessities to start his business which quickly took off.
The company has been quite busy facilitating tours each week.
“The aim of this is to bring tourism to linden and by extension Guyana where you get a totally different and unique experience with regards to touring the town of Linden and a walk down history lane, where you get to learn about the communities and how they got their names and see how everything is linked to the mining town,” Anderson told DPI.
Anderson said there was some skepticism from some persons on whether the former mining area was safe and questions as to why the water’s color is ‘blue’ which gives the series of lakes the name “Blue Lakes”, however, he reassures that it is safe.
“My professional background is a Chemical Engineer and we have tested this water many times and we know for sure that it does not contain any harmful chemicals and perfectly complies with the standards for recreational purposes,” he noted.
The Elite Kayaking tour features a rounded visit to the mining town.
“You get to Kayak, you get to do some mini hiking in the hills surrounding the Blue Lakes, you get to take some lovely pictures, in these locations, we kayak all across the blue lake into the Beautiful Kara Kara creek, where you paddle down the rainforest, where you have this beautiful ecological makeup, of birds trees, flora, fauna and then after all that outdoor experience, we take you to the Watooka Guest House, which is beautiful [and] iconic, where you get to spend the rest of the afternoon just relaxing and enjoying nature,” Anderson said.
The tour company regularly partners with other businesses in the area, “so while we bring tourism here, we collaborate with the Watooka Guest House which has a newly refurbished board walk and bar and deck on the river, so we take all of our guests there to have lunch to relax and that actually brings in income to the Watooka Guest House.
“We also collaborate with local entrepreneurs so that they can provide snacks, transportation services and most importantly our life guards are all from the community of Linden.”
However, the main reason the tour company remained in operation during the pandemic is because of its adherence to the established COVID-19 guidelines.
“Our kayaks, our equipment is always sanitised before and after every tour we use 70 per cent alcohol and we also use household bleach solutions with a minimum of 6 per cent Calcium hypochlorite.
“So, we ensure that every single thing you touch is clean and hygienically safe, with regards to that, when our tourists arrive, we ensure that temperature checks are done and we monitor you for any symptoms at that point,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the Standard Operating Procedures follow closely to the Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organization’s guidelines.
The company also has measures in place for payment via MMG or direct money transfers to avoid unnecessary face to face contact.
The entrepreneur is in the process of expanding his business and will soon introduce more kayaks, jet skis and overnight packages.
Another relatively new tourism business, Wanderlust Tours GY, a company which started off with nature hikes, has made a breakthrough in getting children involved in tourism.
“One of the most popular tours at the moment is explore the rainforest for kids, initially we started with rainforest trek and that one was for adults and then eventually everyone kept asking, can I bring my kid along, but the terrain isn’t suitable for kids, but then now we just created one, just for kids,” said Roselyn Sewcharran, who established the business in 2019.
The company was also guided by the GTA in getting what was needed to operate in the pandemic.
“We went through the training, which was very helpful, by the Guyana Tourism Authority, we appreciate the guiding very much, by CARPHA training, we actually had approval from them for opening, conditional approval, which helped a lot in a sense where although we weren’t able to operate in full capacity, the challenges that we had, the fact that we have to operate at 25 per cent, not at full capacity, therefore incurring a loss, also extra expenses regarding our safety equipment and safety things that we need our gloves, our masks, sanitisers extra expenses, those are the challenges that we received,” Sewcharran said.
The main priority is keeping the clients safe, “we went through all the processes we needed we went through training, we always make sure we follow all guidelines to keep our guests safe, sanitising, temperature checks in lieu of masks we would say social distancing, we try to keep our guests safe, that’s our number one priority,” the tour operator said.
“The whole idea especially for this tour is that kids are always indoors and they are right now in school, on their computer at home, they need to get out maybe some fresh air, so this tour is an ideal tour for that,” she added.
Schools have been closed to face-to-face learning for most students, for more than a year and the children and their parents who use the services of Wanderlust Adventures GY, view it as a way of getting out and enjoying the outdoors.
“It’s the Pandemic, it’s the situation we are in, so it’s great to have them outdoors doors a while, I brought my two boys, this is quite a great initiative by Wanderlust, you know, you get the children to come out here, it’s interesting, it’s fun and most of all very educational,” said Latoya Atwell, a parent who accompanied her sons on one of the tours.
The tour is full of child friendly activities including singing on the bus, scavenger hunt, painting, craft and learning about the rainforest.
Opio Charles, one of the children who participated in a tour, “I feel happy coming out here, because instead of me staying in my house hole day, I would rather come outside and see nature.”
Wanderlust Adventures GY also plans to expand and offer overnight packages, fishing, bon fire and other attractions for nature lovers.