The Belize Tourism Board were the invited guests this week.
Attending the meeting:
Tracy Panton, Director of Tourism
Laura Esquivel, Director of Product Development
Lloyd Enriquez, Registrar of Hotels
Shakira Tsai, Director of Marketing
Amy Leiva, Administrative Manager
Gach Guerrero, BTB Chairman
Elito Arcero, BTB Board Member
Q: Was the BTB doing anything to promote fishing so as to capitalize on the worldwide media coverage that they are getting with respect to the landmark legislation to make bonefish, tarpon, and permit catch-and-release only in Belize?
BTB: they had partnered with Yellow Dog [Fly Fishing Adventures] to create a film on Belize. They work with guides and are looking at a bigger presence in fishing magazines. They also have a fishing press kit available on line at www.travelbelize.org.
Q: Explain the connection to government, funding and purpose of the BTB.
BTB: The BTB is a quasi-governmental organization. Its purpose is to market and promote Belize as a travel destination both locally and abroad. They stress niche marketing, such as, weddings and longer term visitors. They are funded by the bed tax and a portion of the head tax on cruise ship visitors. The funding goes 50% to marketing and public relations, 30% to product development, and 20% to administration.
San Pedro has the first BTB suboffice in the country. They are hoping to add more in the future.
Comment: It was suggested that the BTB represent the country at travel shows, especially the large show held in Costa Rica every year that markets Central and South America.
Q: Caricom announced that the world economic situation will have a $200 billion affect on the Caribbean. How is the BTB dealing with this situation?
BTB: Most of Belize’s tourism comes from N. America – the US and Canada. They have poled many of the tourists and because many stay for longer periods, few said they would be eliminating travel to Belize but many said they would not spend as much time here.
Central America is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations and Belize is trying to capitalize on that.
The BTB is looking at ways to market Central, South and Latin America.
Q: It was noted that until recently (the last 4-5 years) there was never any negative publicity about visiting Belize. Since then, many write that they won’t return. It seems to coincide with the cruise ships and many visitors off the ships only go to Belize City and do not find it appealing. Is anything being done to make Belize City more appealing to visitors?
BTB: The government of Belize has negotiated a loan for a 4 year project to develop infrastructure in 4 locations: Belize City, San Pedro, Placencia, and San Ignacio.
In Belize City, the waterfront where the cruise ship visitors debark is to be revitalized, upgrading Front St., repaving, sidewalks, and a boardwalk.
They are looking at passing legislation to create Tourism Zones that will allow local control over security, hiring, maintenance, etc.
In San Pedro, a project nor a Tourism Zone has been decided on yet.
Q: An increase in tourism brings a need for many things, such as, larger airports, better roads, more security, better communications, etc. Is there a ‘Master Plan’ to deal with all the increased tourism and protect the people and lifestyle of Belizeans?
BTB: There have been many studies and papers written but the recommendations have never made it into any legislation. The BTB is trying to incorporate these ideas into legislation to safe guard the people and ensure that the reason people come here will still be here in the future.
Q: Many Belizeans go to Mexico for long weekends and vacations because it is too expensive to vacation here in Belize. Does the BTB market Belize to Belizeans?
BTB: The BTB does promote vacationing here to Belizeans but it is up to local businesses to offer discounts and give incentives to Belizeans if they want them to vacation in Belize.
Q: Many films and photo shoots take place in Belize and stars visit here. If the BTB could track when these things are happening the media will pick up on it and it is like free advertising.
BTB: Some of these events are organized through and with the BTB. These events are publicized and archived on the website. Others are privately organized and the BTB would not be aware of them unless someone (i.e. a private citizen or business) notifies them.
Q: It was noted that a new movie out claims to have been filmed in Mexico but it was obviously filmed in Belize.
BTB: The last film commissioner passed away while in office and there was a period of time that the position was not filled. There is now a new commissioner and this should not happen in the future.
Closing Statement from Tracy Panton, Director of Tourism:
From the topics covered, it appears that the people need to be better informed about the activities and responsibilities of the BTB. If the Chamber approves, they would like to give a proper presentation about the BTB.
Tom Vidrine said they would like that very much and any Thursday at noon would be great. Notify the Chamber of the venue and the Chamber will move their regular meeting there for the presentation.