This morning the BTB held a presentation on the state of the industry. That was preceded on Wednesday by its annual award show. It is the premier event in the BTB calendar of activities in which the stakeholders get recognition in a number of categories; from the Frontline Person, to the best restaurant and the Hotel of the Year. Both the west and the peninsula split the awards. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Tourism in the Jewel has flourished into a multimillion dollar industry over the past decade becoming a perfect travel destination from what was once a hidden secret in the heart of Central America. Nevertheless, the significance of changing and growing the tourism product is not lost on the industry’s many stakeholders who remain dedicated to the work that is necessary for its improvement. The Eleventh Annual National Tourism Awards is the platform where recognition is given to the efforts of just about everyone involved in the travel business.
Selenie Matus, Director of Tourism
“We received a total of about four hundred and sixty nominations that came in from throughout the country for all the six important categories in the awards and this is an important process for us because it really helps us bring to the fore those examples in excellence and service that are so critical to growing the industry.”
Among the nominees for the coveted Frontline Person of the Year Award was Althea Schable. A reservations manager at Chabil Mar in Placencia, her post exemplifies excellence and service in the hotel industry. She is at the front and center of meeting and greeting guests at the resort. It is no wonder then that Schable would receive the sought-after individual award.
Althea Schable, Winner, Frontline Person of the Year
“I’m very much surprised that I did win it because at my job really all my co-workers are all frontline workers. [They also provide] excellent service. We all work together as a team. I love my job, love where I work. [They are] great owners [and a] great management team. So it is a shock. I’m honored to get it but it’s all for them too.”
Placencia with its breadth of sandy beaches and pristine marine ecosystems is synonymous with luxury getaways. It is also famous for fine dining. The prestigious honor of Restaurant of the Year was presented to Maya Beach Hotel Bistro. Proprietors John and Ellen Lee have been in business on the peninsula for the past seven years.
John Lee, Winner, Restaurant of the Year
“We do what we know. We like food, we like wine and we started a small restaurant and it has just grown to something more than we expected and we’re glad that people there and people there and people in Belize like what we have to offer.”
Ellen Lee, Winner, Restaurant of the Year
“That’s the thing that’s the nicest about it to, you know, put in all that effort and to realize that people in Placencia are, you know, happy about our place and that now being recognized by the industry is the best thing that could happen.”
Not to be outdone by competition in the south the Cayo District also claimed two of the six awards. Small Hotel of the Year went to Table Rock Jungle Lodge while Hotel of the Year went to Lucy and Mick Fleming’s the Lodge At Chaa Creek.
Allan Spring, Winner, Small Hotel of the Year
“I think there’s something for everybody in the Cayo District. Almost all the lodges are family run and they reflect the families and their things and Table Rock is a culmination of our dreams to come down to Belize to live with nature and that type of thing so we are right in the rainforest. We haven’t cleared the trees and that type of thing. We have outdoor thatched dining. Cayo’s a beautiful where you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes and flies and yet we offer gourmet dining in a beautiful outdoor setting. Our staff works really hard and we believe that they deserve most of the credit for this award.”
Expanding on the idea of family business which includes a number of Belizean employees turned extended relatives is Mick Fleming. Amazingly the Lodge at Chaa Creek started with an initial investment of three hundred U.S. dollars.
Mick Fleming, Winner, Hotel of the Year
“Lucy and I are the co-owners of the Lodge At Chaa Creek and we’ve lived in Belize for thirty-four years and we’ve had a blast. We have loved every moment of what Belize has to offer.
We have flourished under the freedom, I think, of what Belize has given to us and not just us as two individuals but the way that everybody who’s a part of our organization has developed and the skills that they have taken on and the cost of their lives. I mean as I said earlier on there are people in the audience here who are part of our life and there are so many others at Chaa Creek who have been with us for anywhere up to twenty-seven years. We have five members of our staff who were over twenty years and probably fifty percent of our staff who have been with us for ten years plus.”
The National Tourism Awards is one of several annual activities organized by the Belize Tourism Board to draw attention to achievements within the industry. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.