Earlier today, Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, Hon. Anthony Mahler was invited to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Alaia Belize, the first-ever Marriot-International property in the country. It is located on the site of the former Banyan Bay.
Minister Mahler cut the ribbon together with Hon. Andre Perez, Minister of The Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, and Mr. Andrew Ashcroft, Managing Principal of Alaia Belize. Also present at the ceremony were Mr. Wally Nunez, San Pedro Town Mayor; Mrs. Nicole Solano, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Tourism & Diaspora Relations; Mr. Evan Tillett, Chairman of the BTB Board of Directors; and several other invited guests. The eco-luxury development is a four diamond resort on Ambergris Caye, upholding the high-quality standards of Marriott International's Autograph Collection brand.
Mayor Wally Nunez was invited to the official ribbon cutting of Aalia Belize on Wednesday, May 5th 2021.
During his interview, The Mayor expressed the need for continued development such as these on the island to help create the much needed job opportunities for our residents.
Tourism all over Belize took a serious hit over the past twelve to thirteen months, but tonight we can report on one sign of a pending recovery. Today, the first Marriott International property in Belize, the Alaia Belize Autograph Collection opened its door on San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Its first seventy guests signed the register today and almost all of its one hundred and fifty rooms will be fully booked by May twentieth. News Five was there on Wednesday for the ribbon-cutting and last minute preparations to make everything shipshape for Alaia Belize’s first visitors.
Andrew Ashcroft, Managing Director, Alaia Belize
“Today is a special day in many regards, especially for Jasmine and I, the fulfilment of a dream to create the Alaia Resort in Belize, on the official opening day today. A year ago, as the world faced an uncertain future, we in the Ashcroft family were concerned, not just for the development, but for our beloved homeland. Little did we know that with a great deal of tenacity and willpower, Belize has begun to emerge stronger than ever with a focused outlook of making a great come back. Alaia Belize will always be a touchstone and a part of the new phase, to bring travellers to Belize and San Pedro. Additionally, today marks a particularly important day for our partners at Marriott International. I would like to announce Alaia Belize Autograph Collection is officially open. Thank you!”
Karla Heusner, Reporting
Wednesday was a happy day for Andrew Ashcroft, as a project he began over five years ago came to fruition. Yet the ribbon cutting was just a brief pause in the preparations as staff from all divisions of the resort continued to prepare for their first guests.
Personnel were recruited from both San Pedro and inland areas of Belize. Some employees are international, like the Executive Chef, originally from Germany. While he has lived all over the world, he is in love with the fruits and fish of Belize.
Kai Autenreith, Executive Chef, Alaia Belize
“This kind of climate I love. The fresh ingredients that this environment has to offer. The local vegetables and fruits, the tropical fruits, especially fresh seafood, tuna, snappers, just beautiful. That is exactly why I have been going around Belize seeing what’s available, on the mainland as well as the island here. Finding great, amazing fish, between deep sea snappers, champagne snappers, beautiful for sashimi, and so on as well. The mainland has so much to offer.”
Alaia’s Food and Beverage Director is also an international find. He was most recently in Qatar. His role is to bring everyone up to Marriott standards.
Avi Phookan, Food and Beverage Director, Alaia Belize
“There is a saying that goes, “Exactly like nothing else for Autograph Collection”, so that is exactly what we are trying to portray for our division. So as we ramp up training we do have Marriott International trainers who are on site, allowing us that band-width to really implement some technical training and from a philosophy standpoint it’s a day in day out training from all of us from a leadership standpoint.”
On hand for the opening ceremony was the Minister of Tourism, Anthony Mahler. He was paying keen attention to all the behind-the-scenes activity… and the international boost Marriott gives Belize.
Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations
“Whenever you are dealing with a brand, they want highly trained people and so we have talked to management here about continuous training and the beautiful thing about this project is you have two hundred people now being employed who were not employed three weeks ago. So we want to commend management for their investment here in Ambergris Caye and in Belize, and for attracting a Marriott here. I truly, from what I see here, I truly believe that it is taking tourism and accommodations in Belize to another level, like he said it’s the first official Marriott in the country, which does a lot for branding Belize and for putting us at a different level.”
Mayor of San Pedro, Wally Nunez, says the arrival of the Alaia Belize Autograph Collection means both employment and a first class island experience.
Walter Nunez, Mayor, San Pedro Town
“We can see, especially right now in the middle of a pandemic, we have employment. I am seeing a lot of local faces, finally getting a job after so long. That is what means for us. Here in the island we cater for everyone, for the backpackers, for local tourism, and for people who are looking for a little bit more of a relaxation and having a different ambiance. This is definitely giving that form of ambiance that that is a little bit secluded, but not so much from the island so at the same time you are having like a first class mix with island time, island style… Especially from the pool bar, upstairs you can see the front, you can see the lagoon side. It is amazing.”
The Minister of the Blue Economy says the resort is a prime example of what his ministry is all about.
Andre Perez, Minister of Civil Aviation and the Blue Economy
“As I come here to Alaia, I see many things that are related to the Blue Economy. Often times may people think of the Blue Economy as being an environmental portfolio, but indeed it is more than this, it has to do with investments as well. How can we make use of what is available as far as our coastal zone. Alaia is a perfect example of where we can live, can co-exist with investment and preserving the environment at the same time.”
For Managing Director, Andrew Ashcroft, the opening this week has both professional and personal significance. Even when he thought the COVID-19 pandemic might interrupt the project, particularly the real estate portion, his team capitalized on a somewhat captive market.
“It was quite interesting because during the pandemic were in front of their computer screens all day long up in the States and we had launched a huge social media campaign and just attracted the attention of so many different people. And signed deals and said once the airport opens, you have thirty days to come down and close your deal. And that was a massive success. So our conversion rate on that was one hundred percent. So we were very, very happy. For my family, this is about the best thing. We are committed as a family, my wife Jasmine, my kids Charlie and Elle, we are one hundred percent committed to Belize. They start school here this summer, we are going to start a new project here in October of this year called the Alaia Beach Club, which will almost double our key count, so we are here to stay, to do more investments in Belize and we might have a couple of surprises of other projects around Belize we would like to do.”