Tourism pioneer passes away
It is with heavy hearts and tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of this well accomplished tourism magnate, Peter Tonti on April 16, 2015. Mr. Peter Tonti, has always had Belize close at heart since his arrival to Belizean shores in the 1970’s as a volunteer in the Peace Corps.
Since then, Tonti has come a long way and has held high positions such as the CEO of Cahal Pech Village Resort and former 2nd Vice President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA).
After completing his term as volunteer, Mr. Tonti remained in Belize to work in Belmopan for the Reconstruction and Development Corporation. He later joined the Belmopan Convention Hotel in 1983. From those early days, Peter saw the opportunity Belize held as a thriving tourism destination and quickly became one of the pioneers at the forefront of the development of the Belize tourism industry.
Peter’s accomplishments and contributions for over the past 30 years are countless and immense as he committed himself wholeheartedly to the BTIA and eventually became a board member.
Peter was always passionate and dedicated to the sustainable growth of the tourism sector, and served in various national committees until the time of his passing. Mr. Tonti was also a big fan of conservation and was a member on the board of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), from 2010-2013. In addition to his vast contributions to the tourism industry, Mr. Tonti was also the Chief Financial Officer of the Lodge at Chaa Creek for 15 years before joining the team at the Cahal Pech Village Resort in San Ignacio, Cayo District.
BTIA President, Mr. Osmany Salas says, “Peter Tonti will be greatly missed. Just a few months ago, he called me several times to persuade me to offer myself to serve as BTIA President. Peter was very persuasive and inspirational. You could sense his love for Belize in everything that he did. I am happy for having had the opportunity to know him. As a pioneer of the tourism Industry in Belize, Peter’s contribution will be felt for a very long time.” On behalf of the BTIA President, Board of Directors, Staff and Members, we extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.
The details of his funeral services will be announced shortly. Mr. Peter Tonti will be greatly missed!
Farewell Peter Tonti
It is with great sadness that the management and staff of Chaa Creek farewell a former long-time visionary of the Chaa Creek Team.
Peter Tonti, who was with Chaa Creek for fifteen years, most recently as the company’s Chief Financial Officer, passed away on April 15th, 2015, leaving a huge void in the entire Belizean tourism industry, where he carved out a legacy as one of the industry’s pioneers and contributors to its early success.
Arriving in Belize as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s, Mr Tonti fell in love with the country and people and, when his tour was finished, decided to stay on.
It was a time of dramatic change in Belize as the little country evolved from a colonial backwater to become one of the region’s most vibrant sovereign democracies.
It was also the time when Belize moved from an agrarian based economy to become one of the world’s most exciting tourism destinations, and Peter was perfectly placed to assume a role in this development.
After working for the Reconstruction and Development Corporation in Belmopan, Peter Tonti joined the Belmopan Convention Hotel in 1983.
An early member of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, Peter continued contributing his experience, knowledge and energy to Belize’s tourism sector for years, eventually as BTIA board member.
Peter joined the Chaa Creek family in May 4th 1998, and in addition to displaying a keen understanding of corporate finances and an organisational ability that contributed to Chaa Creek’s rapid growth during this period, he also shared the ethos of environmental sustainability and responsible tourism that underpins Chaa Creek’s commitment to eco-tourism.
This blend of pragmatic corporate management combined with a deep love of the environment is what set Peter apart and made him so integral to Chaa Creek’s – and indeed Belize’s – eco-tourism development.
Always ready to lend a hand, Peter was a board member of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) from 2010-2013 and active in a variety of community and national environmental and social initiatives.
Many people and groups benefitted from Peter’s astute financial advice and organizational abilities, and his home above Chaa Creek’s offices on Burns Avenue in San Ignacio was a welcoming enclave for business and social activities where Peter, often with an after hours glass of Scotch in hand, would hold court as he dispensed advice and anecdotes to his colleagues and an upcoming generation of tourism professionals.
In this, as in so many areas of life throughout Belize, Peter is already greatly missed. It is no exaggeration to say that Belizean tourism will never be quite the same without him.
Peter is survived by his wife, Delita, kids Guliana and Gianni Tonti. Funeral arrangements will take place April 22nd at 3:00pm (Belize Time/Central Time) at the Sacred Heart Parish, Church Street, San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize.
Goodbye Peter, and we know that you are leaving Belize, and the world, all the better for your having been here.
You will be greatly missed.
Cahal Pech Village Resort Mourns the Loss of CEO Peter Tonti
On April 16, 2015, Belizeans lost a legend of a man. A pioneer, a visionary and an inspirational leader, Mr. Peter Tonti’s recent passing has left many of those who knew him in shock, disbelief and deep sadness.
So great was his love for the country, so firm was his faith in its potential, that Mr. Tonti led, shaped and inspired the country’s biggest economic asset: its tourism industry, ultimately playing a pivotal role in its direction and flourishing success.
A renaissance thinker to all those who knew his work and witnessed the legacy he left behind firsthand, Mr. Peter Tonti lived by example, quietly yet aptly guiding his colleagues, friends and staff alike with a wisdom, kindness and forward thinking style that consistently left everyone better for it.
Mr. Tonti first arrived to Belize as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s. His instant love affair with the country was so deeply rooted, that he couldn’t leave, and decided to make Belize his home. It wasn’t long before he was working in Belmopan to help build and fashion Belize’s new capital with the Reconstruction and Development Corporation, and joined the Belmopan Convention Hotel in 1983.
At his passing, Mr. Peter Tonti was Chief Advisor to the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), the country’s tourism watchdog he helped found in 1985.
He served on the Inter-American Development Banks Civil Society Consulting Group for Belize and on the Board of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) from 2010 to 2013, and led the luxury resort, The Lodge at Chaa Creek into its glory years when he served it as CFO from 1998 to 2013, before ultimately taking the reigns as CEO at the awe-inspiring hilltop Cahal Pech Village Resort.
In 2013, with the help of young online marketing mastermind Larry Waight, he also helped found Belize Media Group and BelizeGlobe.com, the country’s fastest growing media house. The thriving breaking news site has quickly become one of the world’s best examples of the power of citizen journalism in recent years, already reaching over a million readers in less than a year of its founding.
But perhaps Mr. Peter Tonti will be most be remembered for is not only the legacy he left for the nations media and tourism industries, but the legacy of selfless kindness he left in the hearts of those who knew him.
“If all he did was contribute to the new capital of Belize, that would have been enough,” says Tanya Silva, General Manager at Cahal Pech Resort. “But he literally changed the lives of those with whom he came into contact. When I didn’t have faith in myself, Peter had faith in me. That sort of man is irreplaceable.”
“He was a giant of a man,” says Cahal Pech Village Resort chairman and owner Daniel Silva. “He was someone who left both the world and Belize a better place. I’m personally devastated: I can’t imagine a Belize tourism world without him and I suspect legions of people with whom he came into contact feel exactly the same way.”
“Shock doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I heard this news,” says Silva.
Long ago, before he died, Mr. Tonti was once asked, how he wanted to be remembered. He sat back for a moment, thought briefly, and finally said:
“I’ve led a humble life. I only ask to be remembered in other people’s hearts as someone who came along and unselfishly helped them,” he said. “I want to be remembered as the guy who made a difference in the lives of Belizeans and throughout the world, to be thought of as the man who believed in others–even those who had a hard time believing in themselves.”
And to many, that is exactly how he will be remembered.
As tributes continue to flow in from all corners of the country, plans are underway to celebrate his life and legacy at the Sacred Heart Parish Church in San Ignacio, Cayo on April 22nd at 3 p.m. (Belize Time/Central Time).
For more information, please contact Tanya Silva at [email protected] or by calling 601-0315.
FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN MAKING A DONATION AT THE FUNERAL, THE FAMILY OF THE LATE MR. PETER TONTI HUMBLY ASKS THAT A MONETARY DONATION BE MADE TOWARDS THE SCHOLARSHIP FUND HONORING THE LEGACY OF MR. TONTI, IN LIEU OF FLOWERS AND WREATHS. THE BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER WILL BE PUBLISHED ON MONDAY.
PLEASE EMAIL [email protected] OR CALL 633-0740 IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN MAKING A DONATION.
Larry Waight for Breaking Belize news
May You Shine As Stardust
“We are all writing the story of our life. We want to know what its “about”, what are its themes and what theme is on the rise. We demand of it something deeper, or richer, or more substantive. We want to know where we’re headed – not to spoil our own ending by ruining the surprise, but we want to ensure that when the ending comes, it won’t be shallow. We will have done something. We will not have squandered our time here”. (Po Bronson (2003) What should I do with my life)
When you read this piece of writing, it will be one of a thousand tributes. Just one of a thousand online. There will be thousands more who will in many quiet ways sing praises of Don Pietro, as I personally called him. His familiar Don Jose still resounds within me today, especially today and every day hereafter.
The day I met Peter it was only to be for three minutes. The universe did not design it that way. I did. What the universe did was align the path which on that day would attach me to Peter Tonti for the next 14 years. “How can we help you be the best guide?” I smiled and I stared him in the face. His convincing eyes smiled back at me and I knew that this man was seriously honest and truly wanted to help me – for the big picture in this tourism industry. From that moment, we respected each others position in our company but words cannot convince anyone of the strength of a friendship that was born that day.
We met many times at the office after work or at his house late evenings. We discussed politics, religion and world peace. We became hippies for one hour at least every meeting. Peter was raised in New Jersey and a proud Italian – that was where our conversations always ended up. Italians and Arabs. Belizean Italians and Belizean Arabs. Peter knew everyone. My training in anthropology he enjoyed – he had the stories and the histories and I placed them in anthropological perspectives. Hours would pass, then, he would cook something. The gentleman was an awesome chef!
I lost my dad in 2102 and Peter was as usual, the great friend. Offering me solace with one story after the next not only of my dad but also of other great Belizean people who we have lost and reminding me that my father was one of the greats. “This is the time to be centred. You have great things to accomplish. We cannot lose you to too much heartbreak; to sadness. Our country needs you. Your family needs you. Your father would want you centred, right now!” Peter Tonti at that moment, became the father figure I had lost in October 2012.
The distinction of Peter from many other people in business – and it was not policy that forced him ever to do this – was he believed in helping each person in his company with their lives. As he said to everyone who would listen, especially to Larry and I: “Business is about each side winning. That goes for within your company too. Help people with their lives”. That was not company policy. That was Peter Tonti’s policy. Peter Drucker and Anthony Robbins were going to be proud of Don Pietro for sure!
There was great debate inside me to include this portion of my blog in honouring Peter, but I find it appropriate. The reason its appropriate is because, while Peter became the father figure I had lost, he was the father figure of a brother from another mother much longer, Larry Waight. Generations separated them. What I thought was a business friendship was way more than that. Peter offered his knowledge and experiences (in tourism business) and Larry took everything in. Larry was always self-motivated but the tenderness that Peter brought to him and to the many people who mourn him today – no amount of money can buy that.
To close, my sincerest and warmest condolences go out to his family, Dr. Delita Tonti, his wife, Giuliana Tonti and Gianni Tonti his children, and his three grand children. He loved you guys the best. I know.
I hope you guys can read this and feel this in his voice:
“This is the time to be centred. You have great things to accomplish. We cannot lose you to too much heartbreak; to sadness. Our country needs you. Your family needs you. Your father would want you centred, right now!”
Blessings in abundance…
by Joe Awe
Remembering Peter Tonti
How will you be remembered?
Many people live their lives without leaving a mark on society. This isn’t the case for Peter Tonti. Originally from the U.S., after completing a Peace Corps volunteer session in Belize in the 1970s, he decided to permanently live there. He set up shop in the tourism industry and helped pioneer a young industry that was in need of much guidance.
I officially met Peter when I started working at The Lodge at Chaa Creek; however, I was acquainted with him before that. I’m from San Ignacio and that’s where the Chaa Creek offices are. He was known as the guy who walked all over town. That’s strange in Belize because anyone who can afford a car, owns a car – public transit sucks and it is also considered a status symbol. A car means your standard of living is good.
At the office Peter commanded respect, and after work he was super casual and loads of fun to party with. I remember when I just started working with him and I would tell myself I couldn’t wait for us to be cool enough to hang out. His best friend was Mike Green, a guy who also worked at the lodge as the conservation manager, and on Fridays you’d see Mike Green come by the office at the end of the day to pick him up for some TGIF fun. Grrr, I wish I was invited I would tell myself. Haha.
There are many things that I learned from Peter but there are two things that I am most grateful for.
Read, read and then read more. I thought that as a CFO Peter would only be interested in finances but it was quite the opposite. I later realized that to have a leg up in life, you need to be a prolific reader and have random knowledge about everything. On some days I would see Peter spend all day consuming the Internet. He would jump from one website to the other.
He would also subscribe to many business magazines and from him I learned to read The Economist. I had no interest in the world and finances but since he had a subscription, after he read it he would pass it down to anyone at the office.
Know and think like your customers. Here’s an example: I was once conversing with a travel agent who claimed to be a big shot. I was excited to make him sell Chaa Creek and he was interested in visiting the property but had a pre-condition of not giving a deposit for his stay. He claimed that he was not comfortable paying before he stayed at the lodge. In Belizean culture having a service or product before you pay is pretty standard so I didn’t see it as a problem. I went to discuss the matter with Peter and told him I thought the agent was making a practical request. Peter said to me: “Lorenzo, when you’re in the US and you go to a McDonalds, do you pay after or before you get your Big Mac? If this guy is serious about doing business with us he will have no problem following our policy.”
The last time I saw Peter was in January 2015. I was sitting in front of Scotia Bank in downtown San Ignacio and he came over to say hi. He looked different and I mentioned he had coloured his hair. He laughed and said he had to look a little younger. That’s how I will remember him, with a smile and always walking.