The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) hosted its 26th Annual General Meeting today at the Radisson. While the meeting's main focus was the election of board members for 2011-2012, the Association also took time to unveil plans for the development of a new website to better market Belize as a destination, and outline plans for the upcoming Belize Tourism Expo 2012.
President of the BTIA, Jim Scott says the once struggling organization is now back on track as it moves forward in its mission to promote Sustainable Tourism, while supporting professional growth of the industry.
Jim Scott, President BTIA "One is our marketing efforts. We are a small country and we have limited resources financially to compete internationally, but we are very bless because of our cultural attributes and resources and our heritage and we are incredible bless by Mother Nature. The Barrier Reef, our interior, we are incredible bless so saying that - we have to maximize every resource possible and jointly focus our efforts to tackle that marketing challenge. That would be one. Two; to stay competitive."
Jim McFadzean "Some recent statistics for this year came out that there's been an increase in overnight stay. Are you optimistic for the coming year?"
Jim Scott, President BTIA "Absolutely, globally there have been increases. Regionally there have been increases and of course in Belize there have been increases and improvements. We need to make sure we focus on the priorities, the educational programs for our industry, we need to focus on our marketing, we need to focus on the delivery of our service, our product and so forth and we also need prudent infrastructure and taxation investment."
Jim McFadzean "I know you mention earlier that crime remains one of the biggest challenges right now in marketing Belize. Why so?"
Jim Scott, President BTIA "It's a de-marketing. With the information that's out there now that's accessible to people. Every time there is an article in the Amandala or in the Belize Times, Reporter on our news, all over our media - that's global now. You guys are broadcasting internationally, worldwide. They just have to click on the web, they hear all of our bad news and some of our good news, unfortunately some of the great news that happens around this country isn't broadcast enough, but crime on a per capita basis in a small little jewel of ours is a serious social issue that we have to tackle."
While Scott was not up for re-election, elections were conducted for three positions on the association's board. Pedro Perez was re-elected to serve as Treasurer, and Rob Hirons was re-elected to serve as Secretary, whilst Valerie Woods was elected to serve as 2nd Vice President.
B.T.I.A. holds AGM and presents new initiatives for Belize
Tourism is one of the top foreign exchange earners for Belize’s economy. This year the industry remained steady in overnight visitors but in cruise ship, the figures have been going down for a number of reasons including the protracted dispute months ago over tenders. Today, stakeholders sat down to discuss the current state of affairs at the Belize Tourism Industry Association’s annual general meeting. The global recession according to B.T.I.A. President, James Scott, caused a dip in the numbers but he says arrivals are back on the increase now that the high season has kicked off. Scott also states that several initiatives already in place to get industry back on track will continue, but there are new projects coming on stream, including an amped up web portal and a student’s program.
James Scott, President, B.T.I.A.
“Today’s meeting, one; at the end we had elections of some new officers but two it was really a recap to update people as to what had happened last year, what’s currently happening and what we need to focus on in the future.”
“I know that we were affected a bit in the tourism industry with the financial crisis and so on. Where do we stand now?”
“We’re seeing increases. We’re seeing increases globally, we’re seeing increases in our region and fortunately we’re seeing increases in Belize. We have a bit further to go to catching up with there were three years ago but we’re really happy with the changes that are taking place, the increases in overnight visitors and the stabilization within the cruise sector and so forth. We know that’s only going to improve as well and it’s a really exciting time to be part of the positive change and to see the increases, more visitors to Belize and people who are interested in us. We’re going to continue where we’re going in terms of the marketing efforts. There’s a number of things we’re going to continue to do, improving product development, we’re going to be launching a student membership program so all the secondary and tertiary schools that have tourism programs, we need to reach out and touch them, give them access to some of us who are out there working on a day to day in the tourism industry. They’re graduating with degrees, they’re getting training but a lot of times they don’t have that direct contact with us so it’s not just an internship.”
…But some negatives in Tourism Industry difficult to overcome
And since there wasn’t much bad news to report at today’s AGM, the focus was on the new marketing strategy… telling the story of Belize’s cultures and attractions through as many mediums as possible, drawing in prospective visitors from across the globe. But while they try to share the positives, Jim Scott says there’s one negative that continues to hinder the industry.
“We’ve got a lot of creative new tools, collateral material, destination Belize, we have BETEX coming up and I think you just see a lot more collaboration and a lot more joint efforts between the different sectors and tour operators and hotels and the Ministry of Tourism. So we’re excited about that and yes, there was a lot of good news in the financial report but I think the overall theme wasn’t really financial because we all know the more visitors we have, the better our economy is going to be, the better our business and the industry is going to be. Really, the theme was telling our story, getting our story to the people who want to come here. How do we tell the story? What means or vehicles do we tell our story; social media, internet, public relations, inviting some of the shows that are on American TV and European TV here to do documentaries and some of the reality stuff. Reality TV is a big thing now especially with the young generation. Simple things like the cultures here, we take that for granted because we have this multitude of culture and that’s interesting to people. But how do we get that in front of people who are sitting in Germany or who’s sitting in Nebraska, United States or sitting in Japan? How do we get that information to them? It’s constant research, it’s constant updating and it’s a lot of work and engaging professionals who know this stuff that are going to help us get better. We’ve got to try to work together as a nation to reduce crime. Crime is probably our biggest de-marketing issue that we have in our society but again, as I have said time and time again, we shouldn’t just do it for tourism; we should be doing it for you and I because this is our home. Everybody has to work together on that. We’ve got to stop this trend in crime so it’s a huge issue.”
Elections were held for three positions; Valerie Woods is the new BTIA Vice President while Pedro Perez and Rob Hirons were re-elected as treasurer and secretary respectively.
The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) hosted its 26th Annual General Meeting today. The AGM focused on the election of board members for 2011 – 2012 as the Association moves forward in its mission to promote Sustainable Tourism while supporting professional growth of the industry. President of the BTIA, Jim Scott tells us more.
Jim Scott, President, BTIA With today’s very interesting meeting, we are going to talk about our purpose as an organization. We are going to be highlighting some of the events we have done over the last year. We will also be listening to a very interesting guest speaker Evan Pulmian, who works with AGM, which is an online contracted manager for the Belize Tourist Board; it deals with online website and social media and so forth. He is a creative writer and he is going to give us a little pitch on why and how we should be telling our story and off course the theme of our AGM is telling our story. You have a story, I have a story, our country has a story, every individual has a story.
A huge part of BTIA’s mandate is advocacy and the BTIA has taken over the chairmanship of the Belize Coalition To Save Our Natural Heritage. The coalition is the umbrella organization calling for a BAN on oil exploration both in Belize’s offshore and in its protected areas. Jim explains BTIA’s role in this regard.
Jim Scott We are very engaged in advocacy in respect to the representation we have on the Tourist Board, PACT, The National Crime Council and other organizations. Because of the focus of our cultural resources and our environmental resources, we have been very involved with the coalition and their efforts to try and get away from the offshore drilling prospects. We feel that making any risks of offshore drilling would hinder our word heritage sight, the largest barrier reef in the hemisphere and we don’t feel any risk is worth taking, when it comes to that natural environment. It is not just tourism though; it is also the natural resources that we exploit there, with fishing and so forth. Because our economy is fueled, the GDP is between twenty and thirty percent contribution just from tourism and then you add fish freeze and that kind of stuff there. It is a tremendous risk.
According to Jim Scott, over the last three years, the BTIA has suffered from the global economic recession, but this last year it is begining to see growth.
Jim Scott The last three years, the Tourism Board has taken a hit and a lot of people throughout the country have felt it, but this part year, we are starting to see some incremental increase which is very healthy. I think all the predictions within our region, the Caribbean and Central America, we are going to see more increases, some more than others, but on an average we are seeing increases and it is a very positive thing. So with our collaboration with the Belize Tourism Board, we are working together to make sure we maintain that continued climb. I’m not sure if we’re quite there where we were in 2007, 2008, because things kind of hit us at the end of 2008, but some properties and business are seeing increases on an average. We are doing better, but we need to make sure that we continue that trend.
As part of the AGM, BTIA is hosting a Black and White gala night themed: Maya 2012 – when the world begins anew. The event is taking place at the Radisson Poolside.
Electing New Board Members, Launching New Membership Structure And Enhanced Web Presence
The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) introduced and ratified a new membership rate and category structure at its Annual General Meeting on December 1, 2011. The new membership structure was created in an effort to reduce the category options from 39 options to a simplified version of only 9. Also, a new category was added of Associate member to allow employees of BTIA members as well as students of tourism to join the Association and become part of a fast growing industry. BTIA Board Secretary, Mr. Rob Hirons told attendees that the new structure was created in a manner as fair and transparent as possible for all members.
At the AGM, BTIA President Jim Scott answered the question, "Why should I care about tourism?" Scott told members of tourism's significant contribution to the nation's GDP adding that one third of the Belize's economy revolves around tourism. In addition to economic facts, Scott also said that for many stakeholders in the industry, the pride for Belize is a gift to share with visitors.
Mr. Scott also underscored Belize's tremendous potential with Central America as part of the Federations of Chambers of Tourism (FEDECATUR) and the organizations active yearly participation at the Central American Travel Market (CATM), a show organized by the private sector organizations within Central America including BTIA.
Guest speaker Mr. Evan Pulliam - Creative Copywriter, Edelman Group, highlighted the importance of "Story-Telling", the #1 marketing technique for Belize. Pulliam highlighted that everyone has their own story and made comparison between a story-telling and a strand of rope, Pulliam said "that in order to have a great story line one need to ensure that all lose ends are tied so that we can ensure we grasp the attention of our readers". Special reference was made on Destination Belize Magazine a publication that for the first time was published locally and included various local contributing writers that highlight the Belize experience to the visitors.
The meeting also included the elections of members to the Association's Board of Directors; new additions include; 2nd Vice President, Mrs. Valerie Woods, Secretary, Mr. Rob Hirons and Treasurer, Mr. Pedro Perez in addition, BTIA President, Jim Scott also introduced the new Executive Director - Efren Perez.
The AGM was preceded by a Sponsor's Cocktail honoring stakeholders who have played a major role in advancing the BTIA during 2011. The event - themed Maya 2012, was held the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina in honor of our most esteemed sponsors to the Association during 2011. Industry stakeholders and members were amongst the special invited guests who partook in the evening's festivities.
The Maya 2012 Sponsors cocktail, one of the first events of its kind, presented awards of acknowledgment to outstanding sponsors courtesy of Neon Plastics Limited. The Atlantic group of companies, BTIA's diamond sponsor, received the first award of the night in recognition of their continuous financial sponsorship to the Association; IdeaLab Studios, The Belize Bank Limited, Belize Telemedia Limited, the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Tropic Air were also recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Association and Industry.
The night's entertainment included: music by Mr. Salustio's Marimba group, video presentations by our sponsors and cocktails courtesy of Bowen & Bowen, Premium Wines and Spirits and Cuello's Distillery Ltd. Everyone present also had the opportunity to also be a part of the auctioning of prize packages donated by Chabil Mar, Chaa Creek and Maruba Resort Jungle Spa.