Tourism is a huge income earner for Belize, which means that to remain competitive with other destinations; services need to complement the tourism product. This morning, about a hundred persons concluded a week-long training as site specific tour guides. The program was conceived as part of the project of Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archeological Sites. The new tour guides are from areas where tourism is thriving. Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
A total of ninety-four persons were honored today at the House of Culture by the National Institute of Culture and History, the Belize Tourism Board and the European Union. The sixty-one men and thirty-three women received certificates of completion as the new Site Specific Tour Guides from the Orange Walk, Belize, Cayo and Toledo Districts. They were trained to carry out tours at archeological sites nearest to their homes in an effort to create opportunities for self-employment.
Ian Morrison, Project Coordinator, MTBCAAS
“We focused on rural communities and in this case, particularly rural communities near to archeological sites. A lot of what we are doing focuses on the people and we want to make sure that the people benefit directly from this project. We’ve heard a number of complaints that people nearest to these archeological sites are not benefiting from the tourism industry and we wanted to make sure that people are prepared. As you know, the tourism industry is growing and is growing rapidly and this is giving the tour guides, the tour operators, an opportunity for employment—and not just employment for one day, but for sustainable employment. And it is part of a greater program that the B.T.B. is running.”
The five-day training was the brainchild of a larger project, Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archeological Sites – MTBCAAS. According to Project Coordinator, Ian Morrison, the training enhances the quality of services offered at the sites as it incorporates both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
“We had nine sites that we were working at and that was strategic. We had one site in Orange Walk which was Lamanai. One in Belize District, Altun Ha; we had four in the Cayo District: Cave’s branch Nohoch Che’en, Actun Tunich Nil Muknal, Barton Creek and Xunantunich. And then we had three in the most southern district; that is Nim Li Punit, Lubaatun and Blue Creek. But like you said earlier, this goes well beyond the services, but we are giving it the complete package in terms of the products and services being offered at these sites. We are trying to reach out and make sure that once you visit, that there is an improvement in these products and services.”
With this step complete, the participants are now eligible to apply for a site guide license with the B.T.B. For Orange Walkeño, Jose Ku, he has already received his license and he is ready to work as a cultural ambassador for Belize.
Jose Ku, Participant
“It will benefit us as from today, when the guide licenses are acquired, we can go into tourism. We live close to Lamanai, so a lot of people come to Lamanai and they don’t have a guide. So we can be ready there so that we can start working immediately.”
“Is it hard though? Being able to become entrepreneurs and do guided tours?”
“It is kinda hard because you have to sacrifice one to get another, but it is very good because then you can be an entrepreneur and also be a tour guide and that is what really matters. With your license, then you can meet as many persons and you can expose whatever there is in culture, folklore, history….like being ambassadors to your country.”
The Site Specific Tour Guides Training is just one of several initiatives taken on by MTBCAAS.
“We had the UNIQUE Belize artisan program so we have the tour guides, we have the artisans and we also trained people in the health and safety cave rescue for the cave sites that we worked at. So that is very important to ensure that visitors are safe going to these sites.”
As part of the consultancy; a training manual was also developed for future expansion of the program. Duane Moody for News Five.