Volume 4. Issue 2. July 2005

The 155th Anniversary of Local Postage Stamps

Friday, 1 July 2005, marked the 155th anniversary of the first issue of postage stamps from this country, then known as British Guiana. Sometime in 1850, details for the establishment of an inland mail service were drawn up. A notice published in the Royal Gazette of British Guiana on June 15, 1850 gave notice of its implementation from 1 July of the same year. A supply of stamps was ordered from London, Great Britain, but the implementation date was so soon that it was decided to design and print our first stamps locally.

The first stamps issued by British Guiana are known to stamp collectors as “Cottonreels” because of their circular shape. They were a completely local effort, printed by typeset by the office of the Royal Gazette of British Guiana. These were for local use only, stamps from Great Britain continuing to be used for overseas postage. It was only in 1860 that local stamps were used for overseas postage.

Guyana has the distinction of being among the very few countries that have the world’s rare stamps among its issues. Guyana’s most celebrated stamp, the British Guiana one cent black on magenta of 1856, known to philatelists as the Black Magenta, is listed among the few unique stamps of the world: it is the most famous and the most expensive of the rare stamp until 2003 when an 1855 Swedish stamp surpassed its value.

Typical of newly independent countries, Guyana said goodbye to its colonial postage stamp heritage in 1966, by issuing a “postal declaration of independence”: the definitive (everyday) stamps of the day, the British Guiana Queen Elizabeth II stamps of 1954, were overprinted with “Guyana Independence 1966.”

1850 Cottonreel, British Guiana’s first issue

On the same date, May 26th 1966, the first postage stamps with the name “Guyana” instead of “British Guiana” in its design, were issued in four denominations: the 5 cents and 15 cents portray the flag and map of the newly independent Guyana, while the 25 cents and $1.00 portray the country’s Coat-of-Arms.

Publications

The National Trust produced several brochures: St. Andrew’s Kirk, Stabroek Market, The High Court, the New Amsterdam Town Hall, Providence Hindu Temple, Historic Railway Bridges, Cannons of Guyana, The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Skeldon Estate House and a special commemorative issue in recognition of the 185th anniversary of All Saints Presbyterian Church, New amsterdam.
Copies are available at the National Trust at the cost of $100 each.

On Friday 24 June 2005 Ms. Maureen Paul delivered a lecture on Heritage Tourism at the National Trust. The following is a summary of her lecture.

To successfully combat crime, Caricom territories need to reclaim the reins of their cultural development and inculcate in citizens the importance of regional icons.

This was stated by Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur. who further added that a primary factor in the growing and rampant crime is simply that we have lost our way, because our core cultural values have been lost, exchanged instead for values originating extra- regionally.

And to this I say, so true Mr Prime Minister, so true. Now, to you the listening audience, I pose this question: Should Guyana in its tourism thrust and under the umbrella of heritage tourism try to reclaim what is left of our cultural identify? Bearing in mind that tourism development must not be used as a panacea for economic or any other developmental growth that seems threatened.

But what exactly is heritage tourism? Given the level of heightened awareness that tourism is receiving in Guyana today, the general or basic knowledge of what tourism is all about and the benefits that can be derived, both immediate and long term are being experienced by those directly and indirectly involved in the industry.

According to the world tourism organization, heritage tourism is travel that is motivated by a desire to experience the authentic, natural, historic and cultural resources of a community or region, or to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.

Interestingly enough, heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing niche market segment in the travel industry today and has become a major component of the economic development efforts for rural and urban areas alike.

This sustained growth has been fuelled by economics. According to a recent study by the travel industry association of America, people who engage in historic and cultural activities, spend more, do more and stay longer than other types of travelers.

Last year, visiting historic sites ranked second to shopping in the list of activities, the report further added. Baby boomers in particular wish to experience history through travel, visiting the authentic places where significant events occurred or made relevant contributions to the development of a city or country.

So what are the implications of these facts and for the development of heritage tourism in Guyana?

The answers we seek lie in the following: the start up cost for creating a new tourism product as against the development of an already existing one, is much more prohibitive. Heritage tourism uses assets, historic and Natural resources, rather than creating and building attractions.
Destinations which have been seriously promoting this segment look to the past for a sustainable future. And for Guyana sustainability must be the watch word for the product offer.

Secondly, the visitor arrival figures have been indicating for the longest while that 50% of our visitor market originate from the USA. Yet there is no nor has there been Any focused marketing at this already captured and lucrative market.

Certainly any marketing strategy would have to be able to target and meet the needs of both the Diaspora and the American born citizen alike. This strategy would also have to be more focused on the European market which represents 9% of the market share and there is enough documented evidence to support the claim that the European market is very hungry for new cultural Experiences.

Accessibility has always been difficult in terms of air transportation and given the situation as it is, this will continue to effect the effective and successful targeting of the European market.

So how do we get started?

1. We need to collaborate we must bring together all interest groups: heritage tourism brings together many different perspectives, preservationists, tourism personnel economic developers, the arts, humanities , museums, Main street and elected municipal officials just to name a few. Who by working together under the theme of “tourism is team work”, can accomplish much more than by working alone.,

The national heritage register as complied by the National Trust must design and seek administrative approval for the Buildings and sites in the register to be given some form Of public recognition, especially those that are privately maintained. There is no denying the international appeal and prestige the capital city will have, if the city fathers and mothers can realize the UNESCO plan to have certain sections of Georgetown declare heritage sites.

2. Find the fit between the community and tourism: A good cultural heritage tourism programme balances the needs of visitors and residents alike. Every community has a different capacity for tourism and it is important to involve the community in shaping your tourism efforts.

3. Make sites and programmes come alive: Creative ways must be found to engage visitors and to provide them with memorable experiences.

Interactive experiences that engage many of the visitors five senses must be explored and implemented in a user/visitor friendly manner. And there must some serious and earnest attempt by the town/village planners of those mushrooming town/village day celebrations to try to reclaim the original objectives of these celebrations, especially in the townships where these celebrations are supposed to be a celebration of the history of the town through the medium of song, dance, poetry, story telling and historical tours.

We have far too easily allowed ourselves to degenerate to a culture of boom-boom boxes, bar-b-q chicken and hot-dogs.

Festivals such as folk festivals are ideal opportunities to Showcase a peoples culture.

The possibilities are endless For what one can do with this event to market to the Diaspora. Similarly events such as kite flying and the Ruppunni rodeo at Easter and Mashramani have far too long suffered from any detailed and aggressive marketing.

Some of our indigenous peoples community have shown an interest in tourism development. These are ideal opportunities to create tourism villages where visitors can have sample experiences of such every day village life without invading the privacy of the villagers
4. Focus on authenticity and quality today’s travelers are more sophisticated and well traveled than pervious generation and they expect both quality and authenticity in their heritage travel experiences.
A visit to Hopetown on soiree night must not be an experience of loud noise and lewd behaviour, but the traditional dances, song and cuisine must be the showcase pieces. A non-Guyanese visitor, interested in such history would indeed find the libation ceremony a memorable experience.

5. Preserve and protect resources. We must ensure that the historic and natural resources which make up the cultural heritage tourism are adequately protected for future generations to enjoy as well.

Challenges to the development of heritage tourism:

The biggest challenge heritage tourism can face is ensuring that success does not destroy what attracts the visitors in the first place.

While tourism is generally considered a clean industry, it can put demands on community infrastructure.

Heritage Tourism shows communities how to develop heritage tourism programme that attract visitors and generate revenue while protecting the historic fabric and the community’s character.

Officials must be able to determine the levels of acceptable returns (carrying capacity) and not allow the rustling of the bills or the jingling of the coins in the cash register influence them to throw caution or restraint to the wind or to be more graphic out of the window.

Benefits

  • creation of jobs and business
  • increasing of tax revenue
  • diversifying the local economy
  • creating opportunities for partnerships
  • attracting visitors interested in history and preservation
  • increasing historic attraction revenue
  • preserving local traditions and culture
  • generating local investment in historic resources
  • building community pride in heritage
  • increasing awareness of the site or area’s significance

Conclusion/recommendations

1. Assess the potential an evaluation of what the communities have to offer in terms of attractions, visitor services, organizational capabilities and abilities to protect resources and marketing must be the base of any future developmental and marketing plan.

2. Plan and organize set priorities and measurable Goals. Good use of human and financial resources are the keys that open the doors to sustainable heritage tourism.

3. Prepare for visitors, protect and manage resources. A vision of the future and the present must be maintained. Choices made for the community must have the long term improvement of that community as the main objective and finally,

4. Market the success the development of multi-year, many tiered marketing plan that targets the market will see results and partners in local, regional and national groups must be established.