NGO’s Assisting Belize

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 10            March 8, 2007

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PACT & the Media tour Half Moon Caye

On Monday, March 5th, Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) hosted a day long media tour to familiarize local media with the current PACT efforts and accomplishments. The tour, destined for Half Moon Caye and the Blue Hole, was designed to actively engage the media, as well as to promote the activities of non-governmental organizations in Belize that are managing protected areas with the aid of grants funded through PACT.

    The tour began with a breakfast presentation at the Radisson where media house representatives from several Belizean newspapers, television stations and radio stations were present where PACT Executive Director, Valdemar Andrade, outlined the progress and present status of this renowned conservation and sustainable development organization. A dynamic speaker, Mr. Andrade explained that PACT was established in 1996 as a statutory body. The purpose of PACT is three fold: to provide financial assistance for activities on the protected areas that foster conservation, sustainable development and management of the area, raise funds and receive gifts and donations from Belizeans and foreign individuals, corporations and foundations as well as from bilateral and multilateral organizations, earmarked for activities that help to achieve the mission, goal and purpose of PACT and to establish and maintain the institutional arrangements, operational procedures and public awareness programs required for effective and efficient management to carry out the mission of the Trust. Andrade went on to report on their current budget, management status, partnerships held with other NGO’s and their granting process. Funding is granted to projects and programs that are related to the conservation and management of legally recognized protected areas with priorities being conservation and management of protected areas, protected area promotion and development, environmental education and awareness and community development around protected areas. Considered a leading conservation organization throughout Latin America, the Executive Director was proud to report that they are a constant source of information for neighboring countries that are in the process of establishing or managing similar organizations. In closing, Mr. Andrade emphasized that funding these non-governmental organizations and programs are not enough in stewarding the environment, but that it is essential to build a “culture to protect” starting with our youth. “Through instilling a sense of ownership, citizens will grow to care for and protect the environment they depend on,” he said.

    As a PACT grant recipient, Belize Audubon Society (BAS) co-hosted the tour and Executive Director Anna Hoare was on hand to introduce their project. As appointed co-managers of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument (the oldest protected area in Belize and Central America), BAS has been instrumental in conserving and preserving the area. Half Moon Caye is located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef, the eastern most of the three atolls in Belizean water, some 50 miles southeast of Belize City. One of Half Moon Caye’s principal inhabitants is the Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) with a population around 4,000 breeding birds. This booby is one of the main reasons the natural monument was created and PACT funding has helped BAS meet the responsibilities and demands of managing the site.

    After a two hour boat ride to the Caye the media group was lead on a tour of the booby roosting area and a beach area where Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) and Hawksbill turtles (Eretomochelys imbricata), both listed as internationally endangered species, come ashore to lay their eggs. After lunch both directors for PACT and BAS held press conferences where they emphasized their commitment to preserving areas like Half Moon Caye. PACT director Mr. Andrade explained that funding is essential to groups like BAS where even the daily expense of maintaining the groups is adsorbent. BAS director Mrs. Hoare concurred, stating that their biggest challenge is funding, for without that their effectiveness is limited. Although the tour was scheduled to snorkel the Blue Hole area after the visit to Half Moon Caye, due to inclement weather the group opted to return to Belize City. For more information about these organizations you can visit their websites at www.pactbelize.com and www.belizeaudubon.org. To learn more about Half Moon Caye and why it has earned such protective status please read our in depth story next week in our Visitor Guide.

BTIA holds membership meeting

In an effort to boost the Belize Tourism Industry Association’s membership, representatives arrived in San Pedro to explain BTIA’s objectives and the way in which the biggest non-government organization in Belize can help residents and businesses alike.

    Efren Perez, marketing department, spoke of the various aspects of the BTIA, “BTIA is a professional organization representing the interests of those employed in the tourism industry of Belize. It was formed on April 26th, 1985 and the current membership is approximately 640 with members from around the country including Corozal, Orange Walk, Belize, Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye, Cayo, Stann Creek, Placencia and Toledo.”

    Since its inception, BTIA foresaw the importance of the industry and anticipated the need for a medium through which tourism concerns could be voiced. In his presentation, Efren explained that BTIA has evolved and has become an intermediary between government and the private sector, as well as working with national and international organizations. Representation is made by the association members on almost every government, legislative, advisory, consultative and licensing committee.

    The purpose of the BTIA is to serve and promote the interests of its members, to develop and promote the Belize tourism product and to influence and secure the improvement of the industry. In order to accomplish these goals, BTIA serves as the voice of the tourism industry in Belize; promotes sound development of local infrastructure and tourism; provides a network and forum for addressing tourism related concerns; endorses the growth of the tourism industry without damage to the environment; represents and advocates members’ interests; lobbies for critical issues of interest to its members and tourism; markets and promotes Belize as a destination; and assists members in improving their skills and services. BTIA has grown and with a membership providing a wealth of experience, information and ideas to draw upon, the association has a key function in collecting and then disseminating timely, practical information. Its internal communications system keeps members on the cutting edge of industry trends and forecasts.

    By leaps and bounds has BTIA grown and there is no indicator of it slowing down, “we are only growing and expanding.” With that idea in mind, Efren exclaimed the association’s goals and objectives which include to increase Belize’s overnight arrivals by six percent annually and to achieve 95% Belize brand awareness. “BTIA wants that when tourists think about adventure, they think of Belize first stating, ‘We’re going to Belize on our next vacation!’”

    BTIA has assisted Belize greatly in the way of the many forums, workshops and discussions intended to boost not only tourism but to better prepare businesses. Safety and security measures taken by BTIA were discussed include taking a seat on the National Crime Control Council, co-chairing the Tourism Crime Task Force Committee, having monthly meeting with Commissioner of Police, Belize Tourism Board and Tourism Police Unit, regular meetings with United States and British Ambassadors, and installing a one-way mirror in Benque Viejo and San Ignacio Police Departments.

    Membership benefits were discussed as well as the ways that BTIA can help advertise businesses worldwide. Steve Schulte, Chief Executive Officer of Tropic Air, member and past president of BTIA, stated, “We need new blood and combined with the great goals this association has, many great things can be expected. […] I can honestly tell you, being a member, on the board and as president were the best memories I have. The things you learn you take with you forever and wherever you go.”

    Efren stated that another meeting is currently being organized where BTIA plans to have a discussion panel where member and non-member properties will have the option of voicing their needs and ascertaining the best way in which BTIA can assist the community.

    After the meeting, attendees were treated to magazine, pamphlets, brochures and refreshments (provided by Atlantic Bank Limited). BTIA thanks all those properties who participated at the meeting, to those who shared their thoughts and suggestions and for those who are making an effort to make the BTIA chapter in San Pedro active once again. BTIA encourages all properties whom may have any further questions or suggestions to please feel free to contact their office at 227-1144 or email marketing@btia.org.



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