Executives of the Belize Tourism Board held a press conference this morning at the Radisson Fort George Hotel to announce the list of persons and organizations nominated for this year’s annual BTB Tourism Award. The awards, introduced 10 years ago, has become the most prestigious in the Tourism Industry. There were 11 categories for this year, including the recently added for 2010, “Destination of the Year” for which the destinations of Placencia, Ambergris Caye, San Ignacio and Hopkins Village were nominated.

The other categories, announced today, are Environmental Organization of the Year, Tour Guide of the Year, Cultural Award of the Year, for which the recently released “Three Kings of Belize” album received a nomination. The other categories include Small Vendor of the Year, Restaurant of the Year, Receptive Service of the Year, Frontline Person of the Year, Small Hotel of the Year, Tour Operator of the Year and Hotel of the Year.

The nominations have been posted on the BTB’s website at www.travelbelize.org and those from the public wishing to vote for their favourite person or organization, have up until 11:59, one minute before midnight, on May 13th, to cast their votes. The 2010 BTB Tourism awards will take place on June 10th.

And while the nominations were the focus of today’s press conference, it was a side-order of $30 million dollars dished out by the Minister of Tourism, in a conversation with Jim McFadzean that got our attention. Jim has all the details in this report.

Jim McFadzean Reporting
Its been the lingering and puzzling question for the masses with eyes who can see, ‘”Why would anyone in their right mind promote this city as the point of entry for our country as a tourist destination?”

The familiar “First Impression is One’s Lasting Impression” has apparently not been heeded by the so-called experts. But no problem apparently, for the few whose short-sightedness have kept this old capital city of ours in a permanent state of decay and deterioration. But, if there is any truth to today’s revelation by the Minister of Tourism that the old city will soon get an infusion of cash for a facelift, then the bet is on to see who can and will hold their breath the longest.

Jim McFadzean
"At any point do you beleive that the Tourism Industry will have to revisit where these tourists are unloaded so as not to get this first bad impression of this city, or of this country?”

Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism
"Well what I feel that needs to be done because their visits to the cayes, to the archaeological sites have been a wonderful experience for most tourists, both overnight and cruise. Where I feel that we need to address it better is in the city, no? And I think that you have heard about this $30 million infrastructure project that will be done which includes Belize City. And definitely at that point, we will be addressing several of the issues that need to be addressed. That will be sometime this year."

This city and its residents, an estimated 70,000 have been neglected, while crime, corruption and lawlessness continue unchecked and Belize City is now among the most unsafe cities in Central America and the Caribbean.

And while $30 million sounds like a lot of mullah to the average citizen, this stretch of road at Marine Parade which is just a few miles long cost over 20 million - or in the case of the Novelo’s bus service 30 million dollars was disbursed in a single day - which should remind us all that when the politicians get their hands on that kind of money, you never know what you’re going to get. But this is IDB funding and City Councillor Laura Esquivel thinks the cosmetic transformation can and will happen.

Laura Esquivel-Frampton, City Councillor
"There are two projects for Belize City. The first is a technical sort of assistance in looking at a waterfront usage strategy for Belize City, mainly looking at the usage of the areas that are right up to the sea, the Southern Foreshore, the Princess Margaret Drive, Marine Parade Boulevard, looking at how best to use...land use...in terms of moving the tourism industry along those routes."

"The second is the infrastructure facelift that's going to be happening. It's being called the Pedestrian Link. That is because it's going to be the link which will be encouraging more people to walk outside the gates of the tourism village along the main area which we are focusing on the North Front Street Area up to the Swing Bridge. So we are looking at expanded pavements and sidewalks. And we are looking at finishing that North Front Street area in terms of having it properly paved. And also looking at the general beautification and aesthetics and working with the local businesses that are already located along that route and trying to get them to do more of a tourism-centric businesses in those locations."

Jim McFadzean
Belize City by any standards can hardly be dubbed a tourist destination, with its limited infrastructure and attractions and the fact that it will have to share that IDB Loan of 30 million dollars, well, if you are expecting Disney World…just don’t hold your breath. Reporting for 7News, I’m Jim McFadzean.

The IDB project is set for disbursement sometime later this year.

Channel 7