Geographic Expeditions and Small Planet Consulting have thrown their support toward Surama Eco-Lodge as it is honored at this year’s U.S. Educational Travel Conference (ETC) in New Orleans. This international recognition for Surama’s community tourism programs will boost awareness of the ecological and cultural preservation efforts underway throughout Guyana.
Geographic Expeditions and Small Planet Consulting have just announced that Surama Eco-Lodge of Guyana was recognized and honored at the 2009 U.S. Educational Travel Conference (ETC); recognized at the Opening Plenary session as well as press and visibility in front of tour operators from museums, schools, alumni associations, and other US-based institutions with international travel programs.
The eco-lodge also received a monetary award and will be recognized and featured on the ETC website and in outreach programs throughout 2009, undoubtedly resulting in international recognition for Surama’s community tourism programs – boosting awareness of the ecological and cultural preservation efforts underway throughout Guyana.
The California-based Geographic Expeditions and North Vancouver-based Small Planet Consulting played leading roles in Surama’s success. Judy Karwacki, President of SPC, has been the Tourism Director of 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 (USAID/GTIS) project – since 2006, and invited Geographic Expeditions to visit Guyana on familiarization trip in 2008. Geographic Expeditions was highly impressed by Surama and agreed to work with Judy to prepare the Responsible Tourism Showcase application, and then nominate Surama Eco- Lodge for Showcase Honoree.
Home to roughly 300 Makushi Amerindians, Surama is a serene village set amongst five square miles of the Rupununi Savanna that is surrounded by the jungle covered Pakaraima Mountains. This idyllic setting – complete with the meandering Burro Burro River and a dense collection of flora and fauna – has proved an ideal location for community- based ecotourism in Guyana. Surama has done so well developing their tourism products – village tours, birdwatching trips, mountain treks, jungle walks, dugout canoe trips, wildlife spotting – that the village has long been the role model for community tourism in Guyana.
The Surama Eco-lodge and all tours in and around Surama are managed and operated solely by the local Makushi Amerindians. More than 70 people in the village are employed either directly as hospitality staff, guides, cooks, artisans and drivers, or indirectly as farmers, hunters, fishermen, tailors, and construction and maintenance workers. Roughly 60% of the community’s income is now sustainably generated through tourism-related activities, with 75% of village households reporting tourism as a source of income.
Jim Sano, Geographic Expeditions CEO, said, “Our clients are looking for opportunities to visit places where their tourism dollars contribute to local communities’ own efforts to preserve their culture, land, and traditional way of life. One can support local economies and conservation efforts by choosing to visit communities like Surama in Guyana where every dollar spent contributes to local educational, conservation, and economic development programs. Given the pressing need to develop new conservation models for the world’s remaining rainforests, it is vital for communities like Surama to thrive. Surama is a perfect example of this ideal, which is why we were so delighted to nominate them for this award.”
On the selection of Surama as the award winner, Sherry Schwarz of the ETC said, “There were some outstanding applications this year and the selection process was quite difficult, which speaks even more highly to the merit of Surama Eco-lodge’s responsible tourism programming. Many of us didn’t know about this Guyana community and were fascinated to learn about its commitment to preserving its indigenous traditions and its environment. It’s really a perfect match for the Responsible Tourism Showcase Award.”
Upon hearing of their award, Sydney Allicock spoke on behalf of Surama: “We all feel very honored to be granted such an award! We are very happy and are now aware that we are at the crossroads with community-based ecotourism, which means getting to the next level in the business. For us it also means more jobs, new young blood, training, planning and executing of the relevant activities that will continue to benefit the entire community. The award means a lot to the Eco- Lodge: more publicity, more clients, and a greater sense of ownership by management and the people of Surama. The years of continued dedication by workers are slowly paying off as a community business.”
Mr. Allicock also said the community has already decided how the award money will be used. “There has always been a problem for lights and charging batteries for clients,” he reported. “Plans are already afoot touse the funds to support a proper power source for lights, charging batteries and use of computers.” True to Surama’s conservation beliefs, the community will be investing in a solar system for the Eco-Lodge.
About Geographic Expeditions
A pioneer of travel to remote and challenging destinations since 1982, Geographic Expeditions offers a varied portfolio of overland tours, treks, walks, and expeditionary voyages to the world’s most astonishing places. The company’s passion for eyes-open travel to out-of-the-way places is reflected in their expert leadership, excellent accommodations, intimate group sizes, hand-crafted private itineraries, and deep in-country savvy. To learn more about Geographic Expeditions, and the Guyana trip they recently added to their programs, visit Geographic Expeditions.
About Small Planet Consulting
Small Planet Consulting are sustainable tourism specialists, with more than 20 years of tourism industry experience. Their project portfolio reaches from North America to the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Asia. Among others, SPC has worked on tourism development projects for countries, tourism industry organizations, USAID, CIDA, OAS, IDB, British High Commission, Conservation International, Asian Productivity Organization, The International Ecotourism Society and International Institute for Peace through Tourism. For more information, visit Small Planet Consulting.
Source: Terra Curve