WITH the hope of boosting the tourism potential of the region, the Essequibo Islands- West Demerara (Region Three) Tourism Development Association (TDA) is lobbying for transformation of the Vreed-en-Hoop stelling into a modern waterfront facility and will be spending 2020 promoting the Saxacalli, Fort Island and Bushy Park beaches.
The Vreed-en-Hoop Stelling, a key point of entry to the region is currently scheduled for massive rehabilitation and overall upgrade in 2020; this is part of the wider, approximately $50 million project for the upgrade for both the Vreed-en-Hoop and Stabroek Market stellings.
Preparatory work is currently being undertaken for realisation of the project, which is currently at the design stage; consultations with various stakeholders were conducted last September. The works will be executed by the Transport and Harbours Department, and funded under a grant scheme by the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF), and Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Once completed, the facility is expected to boost the region’s appeal.
“It will be like a beautification project, where we will get a nice waterfront sort of thing,” noted Eric Morris, an Engineer at the Transport and Harbours Department.
“Basically there is some plan to modernise both the Vreed-en-Hoop and Georgetown stellings, which would entail dredging of the channel and a total reconstruction of the stellings to a more modern state.”
The detailed design of the projected appearance of the stelling is expected to be completed by March, 2020; this will pave the way for construction of the facilities to begin. President of the TDA, Dennis Mayers, believes this project will be a great development for the region’s tourism industry.
“Since 2017 we have been advocating for a waterfront development at Vreed-en-Hoop. Our hope is that we can transform the stelling; it has been under neglect for some time, and it’s an obvious eye sore, but we recognise how important it is whenever we have a collapse with the [Demerara] Harbour Bridge,” noted Mayers.
“We’re elated by that news to know that it’s going to be happening… it’s a treat to the tourism committee. It’s our hope that the suggested timelines are maintained.”
Mayers highlighted that with Vreed-en-Hoop Stelling being a key point of entry to the region from the Demerara-Mahaica region, it does not give a worthy first impression, and is not inviting.
“The waterfront will add value to the region’s tourism products and create opportunities for new entrants in the industry, such as river tours, craft shops, river dining and bird watching,” he said.
Mayers believes that the region holds great tourism potential, and with the right support the industry can grow.
“The region has big tourism potential, both as a destination and for transit as tourism moves on to destinations in Regions Two and Seven. It calls for coordination from all stakeholders and that’s what our committee is making strides towards in 2020. We know our hotspots; we need to strategically package and develop them to create worthwhile products. This will require public/private partnership,” Mayers said.
Also, towards the end of developing tourism in the region, the association has put together a list of locations in the region to strategically promote, as well as coordinate customer service training and advocate for tourism police.
“The tourism police is something great and we think it’s something useful if we want to push tourism in this region; it is something that within our groups we discussed,” Mayers said.
With the customer service training, the association is targeting the mini-bus and speed boat operators in the region. The association will also be running a pilot arts and craft fair to test the viability of such a platform to promote the creative arts in the region.
Mayers sees room for the development of a number of tourism activities in the region.
“We can host fishing competitions in the savannahs at the back of Canal Polder; jet skiing from Bushy Park to Leguan, and tours to the islands in the Essequibo River are only a few opportunities for tourism which will boost economic activity within the region,” he noted.