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were also occurring on the foreign policy front – and Guyana’s new relationship with Brazil and the other Western democracies in particular,” recalls Captain Gouveia. Prior to founding the new company, Captain Gouveia served 15 years in the Guyanese Army Air Corps as Chief Pilot, having completed his aviation schooling at the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. “My service in the army enhanced my expertise in aviation management, logistics and security, while, at the same time, empowering me with a detailed knowledge of the geographical layout of the Guyana, South America and the Caribbean regions,” he tells us. “In addition, my wife Debbie – a pilot who graduated from Flight Safety International, grew up in a gold-mining family, and had travelled extensively around Guyana – also brought her expertise in logistics management and aviation to the fledgling company.” What’s in a name? Inspiration for the name ‘Roraima Airways’ came from Captain Gouveia’s fascination with Mount Roraima, the highest peak in Guyana at 9,094 feet, which the country shares with Brazil and Venezuela on its western border. “A major milestone in the history of Roraima Airways was planting our national flag on Mount Roraima on May 26th 1996 in honour of Guyana’s 30th Independence Anniversary, which catapulted the company to national recognition,” reports Captain Gouveia. “The company’s steady expansions of its fleet, hotels and new services have all been subsequent milestones along the way. Indeed, the management deliberately set out to ensure vertical integration and synergies within Roraima, aimed at enhancing the economic stability of the company, by adding complimentary services to support operations and provide diversity in the event of a downturn in demand in one service area,” reports Captain Gouveia. Roraima Airways today encompasses 10 separate divisions, the first of which is the
airline, which operates three aircraft; then there is a full service aircraft ground handling division at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport; an aviation security division; a first class executive lounge for airline passengers; a lounge for flight crews; a tour agency; a full service IATA-accredited travel agency; Arrowpoint Nature Resort; Roraima Duke Lodge and the Residence Inn – two boutique hotels in the city of Georgetown. Roraima is also one of five owners of the new Ogle International Airport, located five minutes from the city of Georgetown. Medical evacuation Roraima runs a Medical Evacuation Service, which makes an important contribution to national life. “As a military aviator, I completed hundreds of missions, going into the jungle at night to evacuate gravely ill or injured persons and air-lifting them to safety, where they could receive life-saving medical care,” notes Captain Gouveia. “This tradition was expanded with the formation of Roraima Airways, with the service being offered to companies as part of their protocols to satisfy the occupational health and safety requirements. It has also continued to be available to the public at large. We have literally saved thousands of lives over the years, having provided critical air support to the forestry, mining and tourism industries. We are currently preparing to do so for the petroleum industry too. “Our 24 hour Air-Medical Evacuation system is on standby at all times, either to fly sick and injured persons out of the hinterland to the city, or to fly them to Trinidad or Miami, as the case requires,” Captain Gouveia continues. Superior service on the ground “For the business traveller using a private aircraft, Roraima Airport Ground Handling Full Service Agency provides full support for aircraft arrival and departures, including documentation, cleaning and catering. “The ground-handling division of Roraima continues its tradition of providing quality,
full service handling including passenger and ramp services to a range of reputable airlines including North American Airlines, Zoom Airlines, and, most recently, Delta Airlines, as well serving a range of private clients including numerous heads of state, and companies, such as Universal Weather and BaseOps, when they arrive and leave Guyana.” Meanwhile, Roraima’s executive lounge is used by first and business class passengers of all airlines on the Guyana route, as well as priority pass, Caribbean Airlines Club and Angel Members, while the crew lounge is used by the flight crews of all airlines. Tours and tourism Roraima Tours offers tours to all destinations in Guyana, including the majestic Kaieteur Falls, the world’s tallest single-drop waterfall. In addition, its IATA-accredited travel agency provides travel services to members of the international community and reputable local clients, including Guyana’s President. The agency represents all major airlines and offers phone-in ticket delivery services. In fact, Roraima Airways today is the only company in Guyana – and possibly in the Caribbean – that provides complete and integrated travel, security and tourism services and solutions. “Our customers are met on arrival as they step off the plane at the international airport and they immediately experience our ‘meet and greet’ service policy,” says Captain Gouveia. “They are then transported in our air-conditioned buses to one of our hotels, which offer a wide-range of food and beverages through our restaurants and bars. Depending on their requirements, customers can be flown in our planes from our facilities at Ogle International Airport to any destination including the Kaieteur Falls, or transported in our boats to experience eco-tourism at our jungle resort at Arrowpoint, for example. When it is time for their departure from Guyana, customers will be transported to the airport where they will find the ‡
Roraima Airways is a leading player in the travel and tourism industry in Guyana, with considerable vertical integration. And, as MD and founder, Captain Gerry Gouveia, explains to Bob Combes, his is the only company with integrated network travel and tourism services in the country.
Roraima Airways Inc. was established on 31st August 1992 and commenced its operations as a domestic charter conducting flights within Guyana, South America, and the Caribbean. With particular emphasis on executive clientele, the company has evolved into a group of complementary divisions that supports the mining and tourism industries. History of company and country Guyana, a former British Colony, has a wealth of natural resources including gold, diamonds, bauxite, uranium, manganese, eco-tourism and oil potential. For 30 years, before 1992, Guyana was virtually a closed state with 95 per cent of the economy controlled by the government. However, in 1992, democracy and a free market system were restored and the economy began the transformation from being predominantly productdriven to one that included service provision. “It was these changes that inspired my vision to establish Roraima Airways in 1992, with the aim of creating a first rate travel and tourism conglomerate that could capitalise on the significant changes that were occurring to the economy, as well as those that
Roraima staff at the check-in counters working alongside the Roraima aviation security agents. Clients can then be comfortably accommodated in our executive passenger lounge before boarding their flights. Meetings and appointments can be arranged as requested, as well as introductions, cocktails and workshops.” Accommodating business The company is also the owner of three tourist hotels. “Roraima Residence Inn is an 11-room boutique hotel located in Georgetown, complete with a 40-foot swimming pool, poolside ‘Roc Bar’, and restaurant ‘Cafe Tepuy’ – all located within a secure gated-compound, which also houses our corporate headquarters,” informs Captain Gouveia. “The seven-room Roraima Duke Lodge, meanwhile, was constructed in the early 20th century and has housed Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II and numerous
dukes and duchesses throughout its lifetime. The Lodge is regal and luxurious, and boasts attractions, such as a 40-foot swimming pool, spacious conference facilities and grounds. The addition of 10 new rooms is currently in progress. These two hotels also provide catering services to aircraft coming into Guyana. “We also own Arrowpoint Nature Resort – an eco-resort located in Guyana’s rainforest,” he continues. “Guyana’s tourist attractions differ significantly from the Caribbean’s sun, sand and sea. We offer an insight into a pristine rainforest and the life of Guyana’s indigenous people. Arrowpoint combines the craftsmanship and architecture of the local Amerindian with modern amenities such as en-suite baths with solar-heated water, 300 threadcount sheets, solar electricity, and Wi-Fi internet. Guests experience an interesting interaction with Amerindian life, including
the various indigenous activities and cuisine, together with a myriad of fun-filled pursuits, including kayaking, pedal-boating, canoeing, and mountain-biking on the jungle trails.” A partner of the community Right from the inception of the company, Roraima has been involved in SCR initiatives. “Before the phrase ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ was even coined, we were giving back to the community in ways that became more-structured as we grew,” points out Captain Gouveia. “One of the best examples of this is our work in the Santa Mission Amerindian Reservation, where Arrowpoint Nature Resort is located. We adopted the school in the area, and have since been providing material support for local education, including provision of a library, scholarships for students, stationery, field trips and building maintenance.
“Arrowpoint’s staff members, including management, are drawn exclusively from the mission and we provide training and economic support to them and their families. The Arrowpoint Christmas party, for 150 children from the village, is an annual highlight of the village, particularly as they are never quite sure how Santa Claus will arrive – by helicopter or kayak! Monthly video shows are also held for the community. “The projects at Arrowroot, which I have been involved in up until now, will soon be taken on my two sons, Gerry and Kevin, who are joining the company after their pilot training and university studies. These two are central to our succession planning – Kevin will be taking over responsibility for our hotels, food and beverages activities, while Gerry will be in charge of our response system,” notes Captain Gouveia. “It is through the provision of these activities that we are rewarded with a social licence to operate within the community, which translates into the residents of the area respecting Arrowpoint’s space and appreciating us as friends and as a partner in the community.”
National service At national level, Captain Gouveia has spent much time away from his company, contributing his personal time to the development of Guyana’s relatively young private sector. He has served many diverse private sector bodies, including serving as President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana for four terms; President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry for two terms, Chairman of the Joint China/Guyana Business Council, and Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (Guyana’s leading private sector body) for two terms. This time has undoubtedly been of great value, as it has helped to create a better national business environment and fostered the growth of domestic consumer capacity. “The main challenge for the future will be finding ways to be increasingly green, which is actually a wonderful opportunity, and our activities at Arrowpoint show that we can take full advantage of this trend. There, we are introducing the use of renewable energy sources like solar; the usage of rainwater; full garbage
recycling – even to generate biodiesel fuel with which we hope to operate our vehicles for passenger and baggage transportation in the future.” Roraima’s 5-year and 10-year development plans include the construction of a hotel at Ogle International Airport, and the addition of larger aircraft to the fleet to enable us to fly to connections for intercontinental flights. “We are considering the purchase of the M28 Skytruck for this purpose – this will also increase our passenger carrying capacity to go hand-in-hand with the expansion of mining activities in Guyana. Lastly, we are planning to expand our crew lounge, to take account of new legislation for rest periods,” Captain Gouveia concludes. It must have taken a lot of vision and courage to establish Roraima Airways back in 1992, at a time of much political and economic upheaval in Guyana. That this has paid off is clearly evidenced by the central and important role that the company has played, and continues to play, in the country’s tourism and transportation industry today. o
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