As Guyana continues with efforts at being promoted as an eco-tourism destination, newly appointed Business Minister Haimraj Rajkumar, who has responsibility for Tourism, has said he believes that in order for the country to be successfully marketed abroad, it first needs to be promoted locally.Business Minister Haimraj Rajkumar“I do believe that citizens of Guyana can act as ambassadors (of) our country and help sell our tourism product. But when (you) look carefully, you find that people spend (their) vacations in other countries rather than (in) Guyana, and many of those persons would have hardly visited a place in another county (other) than (the one) which they live in,” Minister Rajkumar pointed out at a reception recently held to welcome him in the new position.At the Cara Lodge on Friday, He told a room full of tourism industry stakeholders that for the initiative of promoting Guyana’s tourism to succeed, a collaborative approach is needed.“I think we, as stakeholders in this sector, should put our heads together and somehow try to encourage local tourism; tourism that our citizens can be able to afford – a destination that can be affordable and a destination that can be easily accessible; so that when they leave and go to another destination, they will be able to sell the things we have. It’s highly unlikely for someone to sell the things that they don’t know about, and it’s somewhat shameful to know that you know about Manhattan and (all those places) abroad, but you cannot sell Fort Island, you can’t sell Sloth Island,” the minister posited.He said Guyana’s brand of tourism product is different from anything that is being offered by its Caribbean neighbours; that is, the usual sand, sun and sea.“We have something different, and we have an opportunity to create a different package and product. But even though it’s different, we must be able to package it in such a manner that it becomes desirable, so that people would want to be part of this. We must be able to put our energies together to become one of the leading sustainable tourism destination,” he noted.The minister noted that with Guyana having been recognised as the number one eco-tourism destination in the world, the sector needs to capitalise on this and build, so that the country can be seen as not just a destination with beautiful scenery, but a deep and diverse culture.“We, as a people, should be patriotic and recognise that we have a very valuable product in our natural flora and fauna, (but) we also have people of six races, and each one of us has our own cultural background which is completely different from (that of) any (other) Caribbean country. We are a place of six people living together as one people, one nation and one destiny; that itself is something different, and we can always market that. So we can sell (to others the opportunity) to come and discover the culture of our people,” Minister Rajkumar explained.The Business Minister, who also has responsibility for the tourism sector, further clarified that in order for the tourism industry to move forward, it is necessary to analyze and see where its strengths and weaknesses are.“(We need) to develop the areas that are weak and to form strategies to maximise the benefits of the areas that are strong. So we need to start a policy of data collection so that we can analyze how our sector is doing, and determine how many visitors come to Guyana, where they spend their money, and how they spend their money, so that we can tap into those (areas). I would like to see stakeholders working together to increase the quality of our tourism product and make Guyana a desirable destination. This will result in the increase in visitors’ arrival and directly making a contribution to our economy,” Rajkumar stressed.