Rockstone’s annual fish fest has potential to grow
As Rockstone prepares to host its annual Fish Festival, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) is working with the community to expand the tourism potential beyond the festival.
Bigger and better festival
The Region 10 community of Rockstone is “aggressively” putting preparations in place for this year’s festival. President of the Rockstone Tourism Association, Lynette Benn, told the Department of Public Information (DPI) that she is anticipating the festival will attract thousands of persons.
The Fish Festival is billed for Sunday, October 29 but this year, the Rockstone Tourism Association will be utilising the entire weekend to accommodate tourists, both local and international.
There are plans to provide camping sites to visitors entering the community before the big event on Sunday. “They can walk with their hammocks and they can throw out their hammocks and have a place…where they prepare their own meals following the big day”, Benn said.
However, she explained the biggest challenge will be accessing the community given the condition of the roads. “It is our expectation that the government, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure will put every effort into ensuring that the road is being fixed urgently and soon enough so that we can feel confident to launch our festival.”
There are also plans for an entertainment segment, for persons who would opt to camp over in the community a day ahead of the event, as well as on the actual day of the festival. Benn said visitors can find “unique” attractions such as fresh fish for sale.
“This year we are going to erect two unique areas, one where people can come and actually purchase fresh fish, also if people want the aquarium fish or ornamental fish we are preparing to ensure there is an area for that”, Benn told DPI.
While some visitors bring their own boats, the Rockstone Tourism Authority has increased its ability to ferry more persons out on Essequibo River to participate in the fishing contests on Sunday.
“We know that patrons have been coming here and boats were a challenge, but we can assure you that residents have ordered their boats and they are only waiting for the boats to be delivered.”
The Rockstone community is working with the GTA to ensure that all the boats are licenced and the captains certified. According to GTA Director, Indranauth Harlasingh, “We will be doing this training in collaboration with MARAD so that all the captains would be licenced…so that adds to the level of safety”.
Realising tourism potential
Harlasingh told DPI, Rockstone “has tremendous potential to grow and to expand” the festival and develop other attractions. He posited that the community is capable of hosting the festival three times a year instead of annually.
“So, there could be three festivals. Three opportunities to provide to Guyanese and visitors – you can camp here, you can go on boat trips, you can rent a boat from right here, you can be provided with guides and a boat captain and you can go on these fishing experiences and outings.”
The GTA is working with Rockstone to realise this potential. As such the Authority is providing technical support and linkages to sponsors to help promote these activities. “We are working with them to create other signature events so that it can bring more visitors to the community”, Harlasingh said.
The Rockstone Fish Festival is already “a major tourism event” on the GTA’s tourism calendar and according to Harlasingh, expanding it is an opportunity to improve community development.
“When we are talking community tourism, community development, sustainability; when we are talking about building growing tourism we need to make sure that we do more than one event.”
He added that Rockstone is perfectly situated to tap into the sport fishing niche market. “I have been speaking recently with private sport people and fishermen and they want to organize more sport fishing competition, not quite the kind that occurs at the festival”.
The GTA is also working with the community to improve its infrastructure and services in preparation to tap into these opportunities. Those include a concrete ramp where sport fishermen can launch their boats in the dry weather. The community is expected to benefit from this service since a fee can be charged to boat owners for storage of their vehicles and the provision of guides and captains.
Harlasingh promised, “to work to ensure (that) from the GTA level that we can bring fam trips and invite sports fishermen to come up here stay at Rockstone go up the Essequibo river and share this with the world”.
Rockstone is a mixed community with a rich culture and craft which comes from the indigenous people. This year, the community will be marking its 12th year of hosting its Fish Festival. (GINA/DPI)
By: Tiffny Rhodius