|Mrs. Elvia Staines of the world-renowned Elvi’s Kitchen was the proud recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.|
|Ruben and Elvira Muñoz, alongside their daughter Nashley receive the new, Restaurant of the Year award.|
|Tour Operator of the Year Award was captured by Seaduced by Belize. They, along with their hard-working staff proudly took the prize, which, to them is a symbol of honor and pride.|
|Craig Hayes, Mike Heusner and Ali Flota of El Pescador received the Environmental Award. |
La Isla Bonita shined in the annual National Tourism Awards presentation hosted by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) which was held last Wednesday night at Old Belize. Of the 14 awards, four were brought to the island, making islanders proud.
The gala event was short but filled with surprised. The fist category announced was Restaurant of the Year award. Of the four top nominees San Pedro’s Hidden Treasure was announced as the winner of the category. For Ruben and Evelia Muñoz, both proprietors of Hidden Treasure, it was an overwhelming experience. In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Muñoz stated that, “I was shocked, not because we don’t deserve it, but because we are relatively new and there are a lot of restaurants in the country before us.”
In May, Hidden Treasure will be celebrating its first anniversary and to receive such an award in its first year of operation speaks of their quality of service. But whom does Muñoz attribute the awards? “It’s certainly a consorted effort between a lot of people, but I attribute the awards mainly to my family who played a very important role, my staff, Anthony Anderson, Juan Carlos Rosales, Rafael Valdez and most importantly my customers,” stated Muñoz
For the Hidden Treasure, the awards mean a push forward. “Knowing that our hard work had not gone unnoticed, it inspired us to do even better and hence we are planning to go a little green,” stated Muñoz adding that “we will be planting some products that will enhance what we are doing.”
For the Muñoz family and Hidden Treasure, the secret behind them is all about the memorable experience, from the time their customers walk into the establishment, the reception, the music and the food, which is a work of art, has all combined to make dining at Hidden Treasure unique.
Later on during the night Craig Hayes, Mike Heusner and Ali Flota of El Pescador received the Environmental Award. According to BTB the Awards was given to all three for their effort in “getting the catch & release legislation passed for the protection of bonefish, permit, and tarpon in Belize.” The legislation BTB referred to is not law and is just a draft legislation which has been prepared. This is expected to be tabled in the next sitting of the House of Representative.
The third award San Pedro brought home was the 2008 Tour Operator of the Year Award which was captured by Seaduced by Belize owned and managed by Rebecca and Elito Arceo. Rebecca Arceo told The San Pedro Sun that for Seaduced, it was an honor. “It is a huge honor and we are definitely happy and proud of being the first business in San Pedro to capture this award,” stated a happy Arceo.
Seaduced by Belize has been very visible within the community and according to Arceo, that positive attitude contributed to the award. “As a tour company, we try to instill the love to the environment through community minded projects, we try to remain ecological as much as possible because we all believe in preserving Belize’s prestige,” stated Arceo.
Like other award recipients, Arceo stated that the staff played an important role. “While we must thank San Pedro, our customers and the hotels, I think the very human experience that our tour guides make our customers enjoy, shows the level of dedication they have given to Seaduced and Belize,” stated Arceo adding that, “that is why my staff deserve the praise.”
To top it all, the night’s most prestigious honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Elvi Staines of Elvi’s Kitchen. Staines who is considered a tourism icon has owned and managed Elvi’s Kitchen for 35 years and her years of dedication, hard work and contribution to the growth of tourism in Belize finally paid off.
“During the past 35 years, I made Elvi’s Kitchen grow from a small business with one little window to a famous restaurant that has lived up to its name,” stated a happy Elvi Staines. When asked how does this award makes her feel, Staines stated that, “I feel good, I have worked hard all my life and I think that the years of service and contribution I have made to the tourism and economic development of Belize has paid off. Indeed it’s an honor for me, my family and all of us at Elvi’s Kitchen.”
Elvi Staines received a huge unique art piece of circular wood carving with a map of Belize carefully etched in the middle of art piece. The circular woodwork is referred to as the circle of life which has gold leaves delicately carved and entwined around it. But what is the secret behind the 35 years of Elvi’s success? According to Staines, consistency and ensuring that the service provided is the best and that is always effective for success. “I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the growth of Elvi’s Kitchen, our customers who have patronized us and the community of San Pedro for their continuous support,” stated Staines ending that, “it’s a good feeling that I will treasure it for the rest of my life.”
Other award recipients were Althea Sealey and the Belize Dance Company who were presented with the cultural award of the year, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center who got the Educational Organization Award of the year. BRC Printing of Benque Viejo del Carmen was bestowed the title of Corporate Organization of the year, Pamela Roberts of the Radisson Fort George was named Front Line Person of the year. Receptive Service of the year went to Placencia Tourism Center. Eworth Garbutt of the Inn at Robert’s Grove took home the Tour Guide of the year award. Sun Creek Lodge in Punta Gorda was awarded Small Hotel of the year while the Hotel of the Year went to Hamansi Dive & Adventure Resort. Small vendor of the year went to Lola’s Art in Seine Bight. The Minister’s award went to Ms. Rosita May, hotelier and tourism pioneer of Corozal District.
The San Pedro Sun joins the community in congratulating all the awards receipts.