Our Community - Iraida Gonzalez - "Making travel a breeze in San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 43            November 23, 2000

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Iraida Gonzalez

The economic success of the residents of San Pedro is primarily dependent on the people involved in all aspects of the tourism business. Prompt and reliable services are a few of the basic ingredients to ensure visitors return to this island. From the tour guide to the waiter or flight dispatcher, all who directly or indirectly work with tourists are key factors to this growing industry. One person in San Pedro who has played a big role in this industry is a well-known local businesswoman who has managed to create a business from scratch. Today she is among the most distinguished businesspeople of our town - Mrs. Iraida Staines Gonzalez, JP.

    Born on March 20th,1957, Iraida Staines grew up surrounded by the love of parents Elvia and Enrique Staines (deceased), two brothers and three sisters. Iraida inherited her parents ambition and developed her business skills while attending San Pedro Roman Catholic School and then St. Catherine's High School in Belize City. As a young girl, she felt drawn to the travel industry but felt the time was not appropriate after high school and instead decided to accept a job as a commercial class teacher at San Pedro High School. After one year in this profession, Iraida made the first move to make her dreams come true and traveled to Florida to receive training in the travel agency business.

    Upon her return in 1977, she married Kevin Gonzalez on April 10th and together they had two children, Kevin Jr., now 23 and Kristi, 14. Despite her previous training, Mrs. Gonzalez did not immediately go into the travel business but instead started the first pre-school on the island, although during this time she continued to work on a plan for her travel agency. Having established the pre-school, she handed over the teaching business and pursued her goals.

    Iraida's first office was in the living room area of her home where she set up a desk and telephone overlooking the airstrip. In 1979, she moved the location to a small 12 by 14 foot office from where she started to book charters and eventually sell local airline tickets. Because of the development of San Pedro and her growing clientele she eventually moved her office to a more spacious and convenient location in town. Five years ago, Travel & Tour returned to its original location (Mr. Gonzalez's former home) where they continued to provide customers with fast and efficient service. By 1996, Travel & Tour Belize was accredited by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a world renown travel association. "This was a big accomplishment for us since our services were then recognized worldwide," commented Mrs. Gonzalez.

     Mrs. Gonzalez commented, "We have achieved our goals with this agency. Travel & Tour Belize provides clients with international airline tickets and provides local tours and reservations. We proudly take care of all our customers needs."  By the end of this year, Travel & Tour, working with Sabre Travel Network, will provide customers with a fully automated ticketing system. This system will provide immediate confirmation. Another service implemented by Mrs. Gonzalez and her agency is coordinating weddings for visitors to the island. For the past five years she has enjoyed providing these arrangements and has recently created a website (belizeweddings.com) for this specific service. Her response to this service has been overwhelming and she hopes to provide many more in the future.

    Although this businesswoman lives a very hectic life, she always finds time when it comes to helping the community. Personally and through her travel agency, she is a frequent contributor to town functions and activities. She has served on the San Pedro Trade Licensing Board and the San Pedro Women's Commission. Additionally, in January of 1985, she was appointed a Justice of the Peace for San Pedro. In respect to this appointment Mrs. Gonzalez said, " It is a great honor to be able to serve the people of this community in the capacity of JP. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to help others, especially the people I grew up with."

    Mrs. Iraida Gonzalez has grown, along with the island, and has been able to provide the needed services that come with development. Her wise decisions and dedication to the travel industry have made Iraida Gonzalez a model business woman in "Our Community."

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