Tourism, Industrial Estate to boost economic development in Rupununi

– Minister Walrond

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, MP, says the Government is cognisant of the high costs associated with domestic tourism and would be addressing these challenges at Cabinet.

The Minister made this commitment following a recent engagement with Rupununi tourism stakeholders.  The discourse aimed at providing the stakeholders with an opportunity to share their concerns about the sector.  

Several stakeholders highlighted the need for cheaper travel costs to access the Region, and for quality roads and other infrastructure to facilitate travel.  They also shared the initiatives that they have undertaken to preserve wildlife, and exchanged ideas about expanding tourism in the Region.

“We are aware, as a Government, of high air costs to get to the Rupununi, to experience the tremendous things that the Rupununi has to enjoy, which has been a hinderance to domestic travel so, these are the issues that we will be addressing at a Cabinet and Government level,” Minister Walrond said in an invited comment after the meeting.

The Minister also said she is impressed with the strides made by local operators.

There are many areas that we have been able to address. More importantly, it’s about developing the Rupununi as a premiere tourist destination.

“The stakeholders here, namely Visit Rupununi, and their other partners have been able to let us know at their level because we can’t know sitting in our offices in Georgetown, what are their problems and issues that affect them.”

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond MP during a meeting with Region Nine tourism stakeholders

Minister Walrond said she is heartened to hear about an initiative that aims to protect wildlife in the Region by taking wildlife migration into account when developing infrastructure.

President of Visit Rupununi, Ms. Melanie McTurk said the meeting was productive and the stakeholders are happy to have had the opportunity to meet with the Minister.

“It is wonderful to have a Minister that is hearing us and one gets the sense that she has heard us, that access both by road and by air are critical issues; that support for the Region and enhancement of the tourism product is an issue that is important at the ministerial level,” Ms. McTurk said.

Visit Rupununi’s, Ms. Melanie McTurk

She noted that Visit Rupununi represents Guyana’s major international tourism product and having a forum to directly interact with the tourism Minister, and impact decisions being made is appreciated.

Minister Walrond noted too that the Rupununi, with its vast, open spaces and small tourist groups can operate safely in a COVID-19 environment.

During an interview on Radio Lethem, she said: “We also plan on expanding our tourism offerings here in the Rupununi, and you know, the Rupununi is large but extremely beautiful.

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond MP

“Every village has something different and unique to offer in terms of visitor experience, and we plan on doing more product development.”

The Minister also revealed that the Lethem Industrial Estate will soon come on stream, bringing lots of employment and training opportunities for people there.

We are quite excited that this is indeed going to bring a lot of jobs into Lethem.

“With every proposal, the business entity has to indicate how many persons they are planning to employ and jobs to create and that has been one of the deciding factors in approving the business, so we are excited about what is going to come out of this industrial estate. There is going to be a lot of economic activity and a lot of things, a lot of jobs brought to Lethem as a result.”

Minister Walrond also said the expressions of interest range from furniture manufacturing, Telecommunications, waste management, tiles and concrete blocks making and other businesses that will aid the development of the region. 

We have considered them very carefully and we have considered what the needs are for the people that the quality and standard of life of the residents of Lethem could be elevated, and so those kinds of industries and economic activities are the ones that we considered more favourably.”

She also said the Ministry is selecting bids from persons who have applied for space there and very soon she will revisit the Region to allocate the plots. As such, small ventures in the Rupununi are urged to apply for small business grants through the Small Business Bureau to develop their business ideas.

Tourist Lodge site in the Rupununi

Minister Walrond also called on communities with ideas on how they can develop their tourism products to share them with the Ministry so that they can access support to realise those ideas.

We want the Rupununi as well to be aware because there are lots of talented young people, people who have different things that they want to do, even tour guides, whatever it is, you just have to register your business and we facilitate all of that.”