The Guyana LGBT+ Coalition has collaborated with Visit Rupununi to roll out initiatives to promote the Rupununi and the country as an LGBT+ friendly tourist destination, despite Guyana’s lack of LGBT+ rights and protective legislation.
LGBT+ rights organisations; Guyana Trans United, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, and SASOD Women’s Arm Guyana (SWAG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Visit Rupununi on Thursday at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
This historic MOU is the first of its kind in Guyana and will facilitate a number of initiatives to promote LGBT+ friendly tourism practices in Guyana.
Later this year, 15 to 20 persons from Visit Rupununi will be trained on LGBTQ issues, gender, and sexual diversity in the context of customer service and tourism. These individuals will then be able to do retraining within their own businesses and member organisations.
The LGBT+ coalition also aims to certify organisations LGBT+ friendly to show that persons there have been trained.
Melanie McTurk, President of Visit Rupununi, emphasised on the LGBT+ community’s need to feel safe and respected while travelling.
“The reason we felt this step was necessary is because of many of our members have reached out to us and said, look; we’ve had very good experiences, but we’re concerned that we don’t have the right skills, we don’t have the right tools, we don’t know the correct language, and we don’t want to offend anyone. So this was a mechanism for us to enhance our preparedness.”
As part of this MOU, the LGBT+ Coalition plans to work with Visit Rupununi to develop a travel service in Guyana that will work specifically with LGBT+ tourists who want to know what LGBT+ friendly places and activities are available to visit.
Through these initiatives, they also aim to promote LGBT+-led businesses. There are also plans to engage the Guyana Tourism Authority on these initiatives, hoping to someday promote Guyana as an LGBT+ friendly tourist destination and a regional attraction for Pride.
They also hope to collaborate with the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association to promote Guyana as LGBT+ friendly to tourists.
Joel Simpson, Managing Director at SASOD, said that Guyana has a reputation in the global community as dangerous for LGBT+ persons, mainly due to ‘discriminatory’ legislation that does not ensure the protection or safety of LGBT+ persons in Guyana.
“And this has also been one of the issues SASOD has been advocating around. We need to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in the prevention of discrimination act as a starting point. If we have existing anti-discrimination legislation, let’s just include these grounds. We’re not asking for new laws specifically.
“So that’s a limitation, but part of working together will be to promote that services that we are vouching for, that we are highlighting are particularly (LGBT+) friendly, and that’s why we’re starting with training.”