The Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Sites (MTBCAAS) project has achieved yet another important milestone, with the completion of The Xunantunich Education Centre, as well as infrastructure improvements and installation of signs at this site. The completion of works at this site marks the first of a total of nine sites which are being enhanced under the MTBCAAS Project. The project is funded under the Belize Rural Development Programme II (BRDPII), supported by the European Union and the Government of Belize.

For the first time, the spectacular archaeological site of Xunantunich has a dedicated space to provide training to students and archaeologists alike. The 950 square feet facility will allow the Institute of Archaeology to provide on-site training in a proper facility boasting an audiovisual room and a dedicated classroom that can accommodate up to 40 persons in two different spaces at any one time.

Visitors to Xunantunich can also now enjoy additional improvements at the site, as other infrastructure improvements were carried out under the MTBCAAS Project. The improvements feature new walk ways made from gravel and concrete surfaces, the installation of directional, interpretative, warning and notice signs, and benches in designated rest areas.

The Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Sites (MTBCAAS) project is being implemented by the Belize Tourism Board and the National Institute of Culture and History. The objectives of the project are:

* To improve economic opportunities in rural communities and contribute to the reduction of poverty; * To enhance the tourism
experience through improvements in tourism infrastructure and services at selected sites.

The project intends to achieve three main sets of results:

* Results One: Improve the monitoring systems at archaeological sites;
* Results Two: Improve health and safety provisions and infrastructure at archaeological sites;
* Results Three: Enhance the diversification of community based tourism products and services offered at archaeological sites in Belize.

The MTBCAAS Project targets communities adjacent to the following nine archaeological sites:

- Xunantunich
- Nohoch Che’en (Caves’ Branch)
- Nim Li Punit
- Barton Creek
- Altun Ha
- Lubaantun
- Actun Tunichil Muknal
- Lamanai
- Blue Creek

The MTBCAAS Project was launched in March 2013 and is made possible with grant funding of BZ$2.75m from the European Union and the Government of Belize under the Belize Rural Development Programme (BRDP) and BZ$1.25 contribution from the Belize Tourism Board and, the National Institute of Culture and History for a total estimated cost of BZ$4 million. It is being implemented over 24 month period and scheduled to be completed in November 2014.

The Star