The 2015 Tourism Industry Conference held at San Pedro Town

The 2015 Tourism Industry Conference was held at San Pedro Town over the weekend and saw a shift in the way the event is normally carried. The all-day event featured two panel discussions including Service Excellence and Tourism Digital Marketing.

13th National Tourism Awards Recognizes Belize’s Best
The Belize Tourism Board held its 13th National Tourism Awards on Saturday, August 1st in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The event had a grand turn out with guest converging from all corners of the country for this gala event. Distinguished guests included the Prime Minister, Honorable Dean Barrow, Ambassador of Taiwan, H.E. Benjamin Ho, and Minister of Tourism, Culture, & Civil Aviation Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr. among others. The event began with a cocktail reception, following seating of guests to commence the festivities. Nominees were all well represented and showed up in full force anticipating the results of the judging process. This year, the list of categories had increased to 11 with a total of 57 nominations.

The 2015 Belize Tourism Board Winners Are Announced at The San Pedro Holiday Hotel
Ok, ok, so I wasn’t actually there. Not invited to be exact. But last night, the 2015 Belize Tourism Board Winners were announced at the Holiday Hotel and Miss Celi McCorkle was celebrated for her extensive role in ushering tourism to Belize. Here she is with her special recognition award. 2015 Best Guesthouse: Hickatee Cottages in Punta Gorda, Belize. One of my favorite spots on earth. And my friend Yoli, from Parrot’s Cove in Hopkins, collecting on Kate and Ian’s behalf. (Yoli was also nominated for Best Front Line.) Congratulations! 2015 Hotel/Resort of the Year went to Gaia River Lodge. I have never been but was just in the area (the Pine Ridge in Cayo, Western Belize) and I hear it is absolutely spectacular. 2015 Restaurant of the Year went to Guava Limb Cafe in San Ignacio, Belize! I just spent the last week gushing about their gorgeous FRESH food and the lovely setting – my #1 pick in San Ignacio is confirmed. Lovely LOVELY spot.

Judging the 2015 Belize Tourism Board awards and the big party
This year I was selected by the Quality Assurance team to be a judge for the 13th annual Belize Tourism Board Awards. It was an enjoyable and challenging job, but a great learning experience. There were 5 of us who traveled the country going to resorts, restaurants and tour companies scoring them on a set of questions they had answered and for the most part had already turned in. I was asked to judge one resort and two dive shops on Ambergris Caye and then fly over to Caye Caulker to score two tour companies there. A member of the Quality Assurance team was sent with each judge to monitor the interviews. The team member with me was Vanessa Jacobs. I met her at Tropic Air and off we went. As we interviewed the different businesses, I learned something new and interesting about each one and how they operate.

San Pedro Town hosts the 13th National Tourism Awards
It is known as the grandest event of the year for The Belize Tourism Board, and on Saturday August 1st, the San Pedro Holiday Hotel hosted the 13th National Tourism Awards. Tourism stakeholders from all across the country were seated beachside on La Isla Bonita as they awaited the announcement of the winners of the evening. Joining the celebrations was Prime Minister of Belize, Honorable Dean Barrow and his wife, Special Envoy for Belize Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow. Eiden Salazar Jr. and Indira Craig were the amiable MCs for the evening, getting the show underway after the singing of the National Anthem and a short prayer. With categories ranging from Guesthouse of the Year, to Hotel of the Year, Minister’s Award, Festival of the Year and more, there were many prizes to be handed out. San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye was nominated in several categories, but standout winner of the night was the San Pedro Lobster Festival. Organizer Rebecca Arceo graciously thanked the San Pedro Business Association and volunteers who work diligently year after year to ensure that the festival takes place. San Pedro’s festival is unique in that it is about the food – challenging restaurants and chefs to come up with creative ways to present the lobster for a panel of judges. In the meantime, revelers at the Block Party have ample opportunities to taste and decide for themselves. The festival has garnered quite the following, with repeat visitors making plans a year in advance to make it to the festival again and again. Congratulations to the San Pedro Lobster Festival!

On Saturday, August 1st, the 2015 Belize Tourism Awards was held at the Holiday Hotel in beautiful Ambergris Caye (Belize’s most popular tourist destination). A better location couldn’t have been chosen since the reception venue was celebrating 50 years of being in business. This is a big deal in Belize because the travel industry is still very young and the tourism pioneers had to fight with tooth and nail to make things work. To this very day there is still not enough recognition by the government of tourisms important role in the economy. But enough about that, the 2015 award winners deserve the exposure and all the congratulations.

Front-line person of the year

Roberto Guerra of La Beliza Resort won the award of frontline person of the year. This honour goes to an individual who always puts the happiness of visitors and their experiences, before themselves. It is usually given to individuals such as bartenders, servers, and front desk staff.

Tour guide of the year

Desmond Ramirez of Belcampo Lodge won the award for tour guide of the year. This award is given to a tour guide that demonstrates exceptional knowledge of the Belize’s natural attractions and it’s history, culture and heritage. They give each guest an unforgettable vacation experience through exceptional leadership.

Cruise tour guide of the year

Axel Chavin of Dark Night Cavetubing Adventure won the award for cruise tour guide of the year. This award category is new this year and its purpose is to recognize tour guides who do exceptional work in the cruise industry.

Tour operator of the year

Caves Branch won the Tour Operator of the Year. This award is an affirmation of the positive and vital role of good tour operators in Belize. Priority is placed in providing superb excursions, excellent customer service, and most importantly, the safety of guests; which in return gives every tourist an unmatched vacation experience.

Cruise tour operator of the year

Calypso Train Tours won the Cruise Tour Operator of the Year. This award category is new this year and its purpose is to highlight the important role that cruise tourism has in the overall promotion of Belize as a destination.

Restaurant of the year

The Guava Limb Café won the restaurant of the year award. This honour is given to a restaurant which has demonstrated to surpass other food establishments by providing a wonderful dining experience through exceptional food, creative concoctions, and excellent customer service.

Guest House of the year

Hickatee Cottages won the guesthouse of the year award. This award is new this year – it has been separated from the small hotel of the year category. The focus is to recognize the important role of bed and breakfast accommodations.

Small hotel of the year

Table Rock Lodge received the small hotel of the year award. This award is given to a boutique hotel which strays from the ordinary but respects the elements that make Belize a unique destination. The hotel and staff must illustrate eco-consciousness, character and innovation.

Hotel of the year

Gaia River Lodge received the hotel of the year award. This honour recognizes a hotel that exceeds excellence in all forms – a true example to other hotels in Belize. Perfect ambience, the staff offers exceptional service and positive attitude, facilities and amenities are outstanding, and each visitor experiences the best of what Belize has to offer.

Festival of the year

The San Pedro lobsterfest won the award for festival of the year. This award is given to the best Belize festival that has achieved the most success by showcasing the country’s rich diversity and culture. This celebration should give visitors an amazing experience of everything that represents Belize.

Minister’s award

Miriam Robertson received the Minister’s Award. This award is for an individual singled out by the Minister of Tourism and Culture, for a consistent portrayal of community improvement, activism and achievements in the travel industry of Belize.

Mrs. Celi McCorkle award

Previously known as the lifetime achievement award, the late Mr. Gerald “Jerry” McDermott won the Mrs. Celi McCorkle award. This award is given to a person who is bold enough to take risks and gloriously leads in the development of tourism in Belize. They are selfless individuals who strive to improve not only their environment but the lives of everyone around them.

Hospitality award

The San Ignacio Hotel received the hospitality award. This award is given to a tourism business that offers exceptional service, plays a crucial role in the advancement of the travel industry and offers an authentic Belizean experience. Employees love working for this company and it reflects in how guests are treated.