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Dec 3, 2015

BTIA is 30…Celebrates Achievements and Challenges at AGM

The private sector Belize Tourism Industry Association is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, and today members and stakeholders converged on the Ramada Princess for the organization’s thirtieth AGM. As the largest industry in the nation, tourism has grown by leaps and bounds, but while success can be measured by the numbers, there are also significant challenges. Mike Rudon was at the session today where achievements were celebrated and obstacles highlighted. Here’s the story. 

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The Queen’s Room of the Ramada Princess was packed with tourism stakeholders from all across the country, many who have been in the business for decades. The industry has grown tremendously, and so has the association. But the challenges facing the tourism industry are many, and while the industry is lucrative, it is highly vulnerable.

 

Osmany Salas, President, BTIA

“There are security concerns, limited Police presence, bad street lighting, streets and roads in deplorable condition, the infrastructure needs some major upgrading…you know case in point, like in Hopkins, there has been a spate of robberies recently, the robbers are getting more aggressive and nothing is done. Our members there know that they have a lot that they can lose, so along with our secretariat we have been working with the relevant authorities to implement the solutions and we have come forward with some ways that we can help, but it’s taking a little too long in coming and we are concerned that someone can get hurt and things will really get worse. Caracol Road is another good example. The road, as I mentioned earlier is in one of the worst conditions ever. Some of our longstanding tour guides are saying they prefer going elsewhere, even to Tikal, rather than going to Caracol. You know, wear and tear is just horrible for them.”

 

Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia was present at the AGM, and says that those concerns have been duly noted and are being addressed.

 

Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism

“I can assure you that our government is aware of the situation and particularly the Minister of National Security has promised that they will be looking at the overall structure as to what is happening with the force over there – the Tourism Police and the regular Police. BTB has been doing its part by providing the transportation with additional vehicles donated to them, and it will play its role with the Ministry. But I believe that in the next month or so, you will see that the Ministry of National Security will be looking forward to addressing that area. Caracol Road is a long stretch and I know that a part of the Petrocaribe funds will be used for a portion of the road, and the other part will be sponsored by external agencies. Definitely monies will be there to complete the entire stretch of the Caracol Road, and that is supposed to start early in the New Year.”

 

The relationship between the BTIA and Government has been rocky at times, but Salas says that the private sector tourism body is prepared to do whatever it can, along with government to make the industry work for all concerned. All across the Caribbean and Central America, the success of the industry depends on collaboration between Government and private sector tourism associations.

 

Osmany Salas

“We have had some disagreements in the past but that does not mean that we should not and cannot work with them. The new leadership of the Belize Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism have reached out to us, and we have reached out to them and we’re ready to work. We’re willing to work and that’s the only way forward. We in the private sector know that we have to work hard for our businesses to succeed and we’ve told them that we’re willing to work hard as well to make this thing work.” 

 

Hugh Riley, CEO, Caribbean Tourism Organization

“Everyone is in the tourism business all around the world, and it’s very important for the Caribbean and the Central American group to get together and to pool our resources. Some country overseas is always going to have a bigger budget than we do. Somebody’s going to have a taller waterfall and more rooms. That’s okay, but nobody has a better product and if we pool our resources we can make the kind of impact that we need to be the most desirable destination in the tourism business.”

 

To round off the AGM, elections were held which saw Pedro Perez returned as Treasurer, Stewart Krohn as second Vice President and Mike Green as Secretary. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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