SAN IGNACIO TOWN, Cayo, Thursday, August 25, 2011:
After almost three years in the making, ground was officially broken today in San Ignacio Town thereby signalling the commencement of the construction of the multi-million dollar "Cayo Welcome Center".
The official program began this Thursday whereby stakeholders in the tourism industry, residents of the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and the media were invited, first for the official signing of the contract and later to the site of the construction for the ceremonial ground breaking/tree planting event.
The ceremony for the official signing of the contract was held at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. It began with Christy Mastry from the Sustainable Tourism Project acting in the capacity as Mistress of Ceremony who in the opening remarks informed that the delay in implementing the project has actually positively impacted the process with an increase from 2 million to almost 2.8 million dollars.
The opening remarks were delivered by Chair of the Board of Directors, Mrs. Mariam Roberson who thanked the major players for finally bringing the project to reality.
For his part Tourism Minister, Hon. Manuel Heredia congratulated Mayor John August for his "steadfast dedication to the project". In offering apologies for the delay in project implementation, Minister Heredia informed that it was all a part of the IDB's procedure to ensure that the monies they provide is well spent and that value is actually received. "In order to increase tourist arrivals in a community, we must have the necessary infrastructure and this is one of those infrastructures that will be constructed in this community". Minister Heredia also used the opportunity to thank the Hon. Prime Minister for his unwavering support for the overall Sustainable Tourism project encompassing an investment of over 30 million dollars in the program countrywide.
In addressing the gathering, Mayor John August expressed gratitude on behalf of the residents of the twin municipalities as well as those residing in surrounding communities, to the government of Belize and specifically to the Ministry of Tourism for brining the kind of development to our community and also for selecting San Ignacio as the site to kick of the national implementation of the Sustainable Tourism Project. He informed that the community will immediately begin to benefit from the project in the form of the over 40 jobs that it will immediately create and that upon completion it will further create additional jobs.
Next on the podium was Tourism Director, Seleni Matus who announced that after a thorough evaluation of the nine bids received for the project execution, the $2.762.785
contract was awarded to RGB Construction Limited. She informed that "The core goal of the project is to draw visitors to town centers and to bring visitors in direct contact with the people and their cultures so as to afford them a true sense of the product we have to offer. While we encourage visitors to the various sites, we also want to show them that there is more to see than the sites and that is our people and our culture. We are therefore seeking to make tourism touch as much of our people as possible", concluded Director Matus.
In deputizing for Tourism CEO, Lindsay Garbutt, who was unable to attend because of attending to a Civil Aviation matter, being another area of responsibility for the Ministry, Board Director, Valdemar Andrade informed that upon completion of the Cayo Welcome Center, residents will finally have a fine place where
"Cayo can showcase its wonderful culture". He also thanked the Minister for his vision and his support for the project.
In concluding MC Christy Mastry informed that "We will be back in another couple of months at which time we will invest one million dollars in projects to improve archeological sites in this area".
The gathering then moved to the project site in the Savannah area of San Ignacio Town where they were joined by Agriculture & Fisheries Minister/Cayo Central Area Representative Hon. Rene Montero for the unveiling of the project design display and the ceremonial ground breaking/tree planting event in which Ministers Manuel Heredia and Rene Montero participated along with Mayor John August and the contractor, Rommel Berges.
THE OFFICIAL STP VERSION
In Terms of the project, the Media package distributed by officials from the Sustainable Tourism Project (STP) informs:
CAYO WELCOME CENTER
The Cayo Welcome Center is the first construction project that sits within the Destination Plan for San Ignacio under the National Tourism Master Plan. This urban project emphasizes the goal of the Master Plan with the concept of simulating an already vibrant cultural downtown experience with the natural integration of tourism. It will help promote not only our natural resources but our cultural resources to bring tourism to the Cayo district's urban setting as well as promote activities within the pristine natural landscapes spread further throughout the area.
Due to its high tourism potential the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan identifies Western Belize as a priority area for tourism development. It is one of the top overnight tourism destinations in the country. The Master plan's vision for San Ignacio Town is the "demand driver" for the area. It sees San Ignacio as the gateway and hub for tourism in Western Belize, serving as an attraction in itself as well as a base for visits and activities in the surrounding natural and cultural sites. The short term plan includes the improvement of the public square as a focal point, with reorganization of traffic, improved pedestrian connections and establishment of a tourism information center.
The Cayo Welcome Center investments will address several issues such as the current lack of traffic and pedestrian organization in San Ignacio, the current lack of public space with developed leisure services and the lack of a visitor center for onsite and off-site tourists to obtain information on the tourism product available in Western Belize.
GOALS OF THE DEVELOPMENT
The establishment of a Welcome Center in the heart of San Ignacio town is the first step to activating the town center for daytime and evening leisure activities, building the town as a tourism destination in its own right and strengthening local tourism business, ultimately increasing visitor's expenditure and length of stay in the district.
It will consolidate tourism and recreation activities and provide an orientation and information center for visitors to familiarize themselves with the activities and tourism product being offered in the area and explore how these can be experienced.
It will promote cultural understanding, an awareness of conservation ethics, environmental standards and visitor safety through the provision of a center with professional visitor servicing.
It will promote local tourism businesses and partnerships, with opportunities for collaborative marketing and development for tour circuits.
It will be a center of cultural activity promoting the arts, music, and heritage of the town, promoting community events, local pride and cohesion.
It will act as a catalyst for future town investment and beautification projects.
It will improve security within the town center through appropriate urban design and provision of the lighting.
It will provide pedestrian link to Burns Avenue and be a central place for visitors and locals to relax and establish an emotional connection with the town.
THE FINAL DEVELOPMENT WILL INCLUDE
The Welcome Center - showcasing the attractions of the district and providing opportunities for the private sector to market their products and tourism offering. The interior design will maximize audience engagement with the opportunity for touch screen technology. It will create a sense of place, encourage exploration and above all welcome visitors with keen professionalism. Provision will be made for an area for the local schools and community to create displays and include a small audio visual room for interpretation on the district.
- 2 anchor tenants and patio area flanking the Welcome Center, with the opportunity to offer food/ beverage, internet services etc.
- 4 Kiosks - offering the opportunity for small businesses associated with tourism and leisure (ie. tour operators, ice-cream, snacks and beverages etc.)
- Landscaped area with stage facilities and seating area for cultural performances
- Hardscaped area with shading and features providing the opportunity to host weekly scheduled events, such as a local handicraft market.
- Public Parking facilities for around 40 vehicles
- Bus station amenities with ticketing office, shelter and consideration for locker rooms
- Taxi Facilities
- Public Restroom facilities with permanent on-site cleaning staff during open hours.
FUTURE INVESTMENTS FOR CAYO UNDER STP
A contract is currently underway to complete architectural designs for a visitor center and bathroom facilities at Xunantunich, (to assist in the interpretation and visitor management at the site), for improvement of the trails, visitor center and amenities at Cahal Pech and also for bathroom and changing facilities at Actun Tunich Muknal.
A new ferry is being designed for Xunantunich and will be installed by early 2012.
Construction bids for the BZ$800,000 investment in Archaeological sites will be invited at the end of this year following completion of the technical studies and designs.
The Project site encompasses approximately 2.55 acres of public land including current developments of Coronation Park, the San Ignacio Cultural Center and the Norbeta Pulido commercial building.
1) Technical study, planning and consultation has been ongoing since the first consultation held in September 2009.
2) The Welcome Center will be managed and operated by staff under the San Ignacio/Santa Elena Town Council with a management advisory board consisting of stakeholders from industries and organizations such as Belize Tourism Industry Association, Belize Tourism Board, National Institute of Culture and History, Belize Hotel Association, Cayo Tour Guide Association and local residents.
3) Total construction value will be just over BZ$2.7 MILLION
4) Construction timeframe is anticipated as 12 months beginning September.
5) Employment generation - 30-40 persons needed for construction period and 7 positions minimum for operations. The Cayo Star