Guyana: The lessons of rodeo, regatta, kite flying…and popular attractions

The lessons of rodeo, regatta, kite flying…and popular attractions

Leonard Gildarie

The last week was a holiday, one with Guyanese taking their foot off the pedal for a breather. We are a hardworking people who are slowly learning the value of pampering ourselves. That sometimes for some people can be both intoxicating and a bad habit.

If you are familiar with what transpires in the US – North America in general – and Europe, holidays are a big thing. People love travelling for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The associated shopping and other associated activities have been money-spinners.   

Some countries in the Caribbean, like Barbados, St. Maarten and Antigua, are heavily dependent on tourism for their economy. Nearer to home, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago have honed their invitations to world famous attractions into a fine art.

The carnivals for both countries have been taken to a new level. We smile when we hear Trinis talk. Trinis also smile when they hear us. They are a proud people who love their beaches, carnival, cricket and music. In fact, bad-talking a Trini’s carnival and music could lead to an instant fistfight or worse.

Across in Brazil, the same love for carnival has seen thousands trekking to that country annually to revel in the fun. Maybe it is the skimpily-clad women or something else.

Both countries have been raking in dollars from visitors. From airline tickets to hotels, food, taxis and shopping, the benefits have been good over the years for Trinidad and Brazil.

Sports tourism has been a boon to countries like India which is cricket-crazy.

In the US, (American) football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, boxing and other special entertainment, like Wrestlemania, are all jealously protected because of the amount of money that is generated.

The Olympics held every four years are games that have the potential to transform economies because of the spin-off from preparations and the hosting of the actual event.

In fact, the choice of a nation to host those games – in which see around 200 participating countries sending delegates who all have to travel, stay in hotels, eat and shop – is eagerly watched, because every government wants a piece of the action.

Sports tourism refers to travel which involves either observing or participating in a sporting event, staying apart from their usual environment. Sport tourism is a fast-growing sector of the global travel industry and equates to about US$7.68 billion, according to figures.

Down in Guyana, we can by no means compare our capacity to what transpires overseas. However, we do happen to have tens of thousands of Guyanese who are living in the Tri State area of the US. Big tourism potential, it has been boasted. Sadly, we never really exploited that potential.

I do happen to know that a number of my friends who trekked to Lethem, Region Nine, last week for the annual rodeo. I never went for the rodeos, but photos of the crowds – which seem to be growing every year – indicate that there is a huge following.

There were no hotel rooms left last weekend at Lethem.

Guyanese who live in Brazil journeyed across the Takutu Bridge which separates this country from its neighbour.

Right in Region Nine, at Sand Creek, a mini rodeo, one day after the big event, was held. It is attracting a growing crowd too, it has been reported.
However, I thought the icing on the cake was at Bartica, Region Seven, where the annual regatta appeared to have attracted the biggest crowd to date.

I am not sure how many Guyanese have visited Bartica. I fully endorse the decision to name it a town. It is a beautifully exciting place, located 41 miles south-west of Georgetown. From Parika, you can take a boat and head upriver.

Home to about 15,000 persons, Bartica has been considered a gateway to the hinterlands. It was here that the Government last week commissioned an upgraded waterfront area.

Yes, we do have some way to go. The people of Bartica loved their regatta as usual. So did the hundreds who went up too. Bartica had few hotel rooms available.

In the city, we host the annual Mashramani. We do have CPL games here too.

We have been talking of many things. Of diversification. Of the need to think out of the box. Diversification may also include looking to capitalize on what we have.

Our rodeos, the Rockstone fishing competition, the Bartica regatta, the annual Mashramani, we have to find ways to tap into that large Guyanese diaspora in the US to come back for the events.

We have some unique skills with our ‘cowboys’ and ‘cowgirls’. That open area north of Bartica and natural regatta area that has made visitors fall in love will have to be marketed. This administration has to pay attention to what transpired over the last weekend.

We have to look at placing the right persons in charge to manage these events, to take them to next level. It goes merely beyond barbecues and limes. It has to involve logistics, more rooms, maybe even bed and breakfast-type arrangements.

We have to figure out ways to not only attract visitors from right among our own people but how to move the throngs that can afford to come. We have to think about doing air charters from North America for these events. We are badly in need to entertainment and clean fun. Let’s put the show on the road.

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