Suriname showing positive signs of tourism growth

Following the significant success of the latest Conference on Sustainable Tourism hosted on the Leeward Caribbean island of St. Kitts, the country of Suriname has shown positive tourism figures largely due to heritage- and culture-based tourism initiatives.
More than 12,400 foreign tourists visited Suriname during the month of June this year - an increase of more than 30% compared to June 2001.
The Netherlands constitutes the largest market for tourists to Suriname with 8,354, accounting for two thirds (67.7%) of the total number of tourists recorded in June 2003. Although only 389 tourists were recorded from the United States of America (USA) in June, 3.2% of the total, this corresponded to about 40 of all the Americans that came to Suriname during the whole of year 2000. 514 tourists came from the Caribbean region while neighbouring Guyana, French Guyana and Brasilia accounted for 809, 974 and 310 arrivals respectively. Less than 100 tourists came to Suriname in June from other European countries than the Netherlands.
These significant results are provided from a new tourism statistical system established with the assistance of the Integrated Tourism Development Programme (ITDP). As part of this system, new Arrival and Departure forms have been introduced at the JAP International Airport at Zanderij and at the land border posts at Albina and Nickerie. A new computer software system, the Management Information System for Tourism (MIST) has been installed at the offices of the Suriname Tourism Foundation (STF) in cooperation with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
Says Jan Bjarnason, Project Team Leader of the ITDP: “One of the most important tools for planning and promotion of sustainable tourism development in Suriname as in any other tourist destination is the collection and distribution of reliable up-to-date statistical information about tourists visiting the country. For years, such essential planning information has not been readily available in Suriname and there is an urgent need to ensure that such information is collected and made available to tourism industry operators and planners” continues Mr Bjarnason.
The arrival statistics for June also confirm that tourism to Suriname is still dominated by the so-called VFR tourists, i.e. tourists visiting friends and relatives. Thus, 8,243 came to visit friends and relatives, corresponding to 66.8% of the total number of tourists visiting Suriname in June. 2,204 tourists came for holiday/vacation while 1,056 came for business and 840 for other purposes.

On average, tourists spent about 28.2 nights in Suriname, an evidence of the high proportion of tourists visiting friends and relatives who normally stay much longer than holiday and business tourists. Not surprisingly, Dutch tourists, dominated by VFR travellers, recorded the longest average length of stay with 34.6 nights. Tourists from Guyana spent on average 8 nights in Suriname while tourists from Other South America (not including Brazil and Guyana) recorded the lowest average length of stay with 4.9 nights. Caribbean and American tourists stayed on average 16-17 nights in Suriname.
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