Belize Hotel Association holds AGM in San Pedro

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 23            June 8, 2000

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More than forty members of the Belize Hotel Association (BHA) united this past week at the SunBreeze Hotel in San Pedro for the Assoc- iation's Annual General Meeting. BHA Administrator Suzette Gibson welcomed those attending and introduced the outgoing board members present: President Julia Edwards, Treasurer Janet Woollam, Secretary Lucy Fleming, and Directors Ben Ruoti, Einer Gomez and Teresa Parkey.

    Minutes of the last AGM were read by the secretary followed by the president's report which began by making apologies for those who could not attend. President Edwards then reflected on the good year BHA had quoting "high occupancy rates, record tourist arrivals, -and the great strides they have made through marketing." She mentioned the various trade shows attended and those upcoming. President Edwards then gave credit to the Belize Tourism Board for their interest and dedication in marketing Belize. She also praised BTB's support of the recently published Travel Planner, an annual publication that will have a projected distribution of 75,000 with the European market to receive an estimated 35,000. Further mentioned were the success of destination training, the Bulk Purchasing Program, the Outreach awareness campaign and the BHA's lobbying efforts in regards to the Hotel Act, the new tax systems and San Pedro's San Mateo Subdivision. Ms. Edwards then wished success and the best of luck to the upcoming Board of Directors.

    As her final act as President for this year, Ms. Edwards introduced guest speaker, Emory King. Mr. King, one of Belize's most famous storytellers, was asked to relate the history of tourism in Belize. The sixty-nine year-old historian delighted and entertained those gathered with much about this "strange and wonderful country". He mentioned how, oddly enough, hurricanes started the economy's cash flow rolling in this country with the amount of relief funds from Great Britain matching the insurance payoffs. Mr. King stated he became secretary of the government's first tourism board in 1954 when the only big hotel in Belize City was the Fort George. He continued that it was not until the 70s that tourism came to be in San Pedro beginning with Holiday Hotel, then Paradise Hotel and the Ambergris Lodge. Mr. King relayed that throughout the years, with every new Minister of Tourism came "new rules, regulations, laws and taxes, but thankfully, the current Minister is actually promoting tourism as well." Emory King ended by thanking everyone and introducing the second speaker of the meeting, Mrs. Valerie Woods-Smith, Director of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT). 

    Mrs. Woods-Smith opened her speech by saying how different her views on tourism are now that she has moved from the Tourism Board to actually having a "hands on" with the real product at PACT. In mentioning how far the tourism industry has come, she stressed the need to properly manage our destination's resources as the traffic flow in them increases. Mrs. Woods-Smith cautioned association members to remember to protect our natural resources as they work on bridging the gaps between seasons and to consider possibly an open/close season for some areas. The PACT director stated since visitor levels are not out of hand yet, this is the time to establish guidelines and create awareness of conservation for our tourists and ourselves.

    Next on the agenda for the AGM was the dissolution of the old and election of the new Board of Directors. In a quick and orderly fashion the new officers were voted in and announced as: President Lucy Fleming, 1st Vice President Maria Otero, 2nd Vice President Ben Ruoti, Secretary Ann Wood, Treasurer Chris Burkey, and Directors Einer Gomez, Teresa Parkey, Eduardo Aguilar and Ian Lizarraga. Incoming President Fleming then thanked everyone for their confidence and stated the BHA is made up of individual members who work as a team voluntarily. She stated that because of their investments in Belize they are essentially the "driving force of the tourism industry." She ended her acceptance speech by striving to strengthen the association with more members during her term in office.

   Director Einer Gomez thanked those gathered  and invited them to a BBQ lunch at BC's Bar. A drink voucher was kindly provided to all attending by Tropic Air for their support of the BHA.
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