Changes at the top in Tourism Ministry
Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, Manuel Heredia, Jr., today announced changes in two top posts within the Tourism Ministry during a press conference at the House of Culture in Belize City this morning.
It was confirmed that Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry Michael Singh is leaving at the end of this year to become executive director of BELTRAIDE. His contract was due to expire next February.
Tapped to replace Singh is Lindsay Garbutt, currently chairman of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), who has an extensive career in the tourism sector, particularly in the South.
Mariam Roberson, managing director/owner of San Ignacio Hotel, and who has also served on the boards of the BTIA and the Belize Hotel Association, replaces Garbutt as chairperson at BTB and Brian Young, owner of Seahorse Dive Shop, has been named southern representative to the Board, replacing Garbutt, who held that role in addition to his chairmanship.
Garbutt, the new CEO, told the press that he was looking forward to working on the Board’s various new initiatives and projects for the development of Belizean tourism.
Among those projects is the Sustainable Tourism Program (STP), which continues in its development phase in Belize City, San Ignacio, San Pedro Town and Placencia, with construction on the various projects scheduled to start no later than March of 2011 after the consultants and engineers have completed their various drawings and concepts.
The Belize City Municipal Airstrip is expected to benefit from a $13 million re-building and expansion project, including expansion of the runway to 3,500 feet onto land donated by St. John’s College and new buildings on the property. The San Pedro Airstrip will be rebuilt with funding of $3.1 million from COCESNA (the regional authority for civil aviation), due to be signed for very soon, according to CEO Singh. The northern border at Santa Elena, Corozal, is also due for almost $11 million in upgrades through funding from CABEI.
The purpose of these projects, Singh said, is to “change the impression and first view tourists have of Belize when they arrive,” noting that many tourists have complained that the border points and airports/airstrips do not have a welcoming look.
Regarding reports that the United Nations Social, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is considering cancelling the status of the Belize Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site, Minister Heredia told the press that there is no cause for alarm and that tourism stakeholders continue to meet with UNESCO representatives to assure them that Belize will continue to fight to keep the Reef on the site list.
The charges of the Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize (FECTAB) last week that the Tourism Village was denying them access to cruise ship passengers entering Belize were also brought up at the conference. Asked about it today, Director of Tourism Seleni Matus told Amandala that while FECTAB and the Village will have to sort out that problem, the surrounding Fort George Tourism Zone will include all operators and no one will be denied economic opportunities. She added that the Zone will now have added security to prevent a loss of safety for visitors.
Regarding FECTAB’s charges of bias on his part in the debate over cruise ship tourism in Placencia, Michael Singh told us that the documentation they presented last week was nothing new and that all he has been doing is facilitating the consultation on the project. The second and third public consultation meetings are scheduled for Punta Gorda Town tonight and Dangriga tomorrow, Tuesday. Amandala