BTB hosts 10th Annual Tourism Awards

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 20, No. 24            June 17, 2010

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Kelly thanked her wonderful staff and their fantastic customers; “We [at Blue Water Grill] are humbled, honored, and grateful.”

Celi McCorkle was honored for her pioneerism in tourism.

Ingrid Sanchez, Martin Goldberg and Blanca Narvaez of Xanadu. Xanadu was honored alongside Hamanasi and Chaa Creek for their Green Globe Certification and Eco-friendly efforts.

    It was a night to honor a variety of people in the tourism industry for their numerous accomplishments, and on Thursday, June 10, 2010, tourism stakeholders, nominees and invited guests convened to the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza for the 10th annual National Tourism Awards. The BTB Tourism Awards honors men, women and businesses that promote hospitality service excellence, and encourages newer products and higher standards. MC’s for the night were William Neal and Gwen Nuñez Gonzalez, who introduced the first order of business: a beautiful rendition of the Belizean National Anthem by Forrestt Phillips, followed by the invocation by Father Oliver Smalls. Director of the BTB (Belize Tourism Board), Ms. Seleni Matus, officially welcomed everyone, stating that it was time to honor people who have raised the bar in excellence and helped to improve Belize’s mark in the global marketplace.

    Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture Manuel Heredia Jr. further emphasized how going the extra mile helps visitors experience what it means to be Belizean. Encounter after encounter, visitors are always treated with the best service, and so, time has to be taken to celebrate the accomplishment of a job well done. The first order of business was a touching and fitting tribute to Mr. Wilfred Peters by Mr. Rene Villanueva Sr. Belize lost its Belizean Brukdown Icon on Wednesday, June 9, and it was only fitting that Mista Peetaz, one of the Three Kings of Belizean music, be honored with a moment of silence. Also apropos was the first award for the night, Cultural Award of the Year: “Three Kings of Belize”. The film by Katia Paradis is a documentary of the three musicians who have held pivotal roles in Belizean music: Florencio Mes, Paul Nabor and Mr. Wilfred Peters.

    San Pedro had a total of seven nominees, and on Thursday night, four were finalists. Of those four, Blue Water Grill brought home the prize for Restaurant of the Year. With a great variety of dishes, unique offerings and excellent service, Blue Water Grill was a hit with voters. Owner Kelly McDermott-Kanabar was pleased to accept the award while accompanied by staff members, whom she thanked for their hard work and dedication. While Xanadu was nominated for Hotel of the Year, Jaguar Reef Lodge took home the prize. There was a special prize in store for them however, as BTB took the time to give special recognition to the three resorts who are Green Globe certified. Alongside Chaa Creek Lodge and Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, Xanadu received a special plaque for their efforts at going green. Manager Martin Goldberg took the opportunity to encourage “everyone to make a difference.”

    The huge award for the night was the Lifetime Achievement Award, once which tourism pioneer and the all around fabulous Celi McCorkle brought home! She was recognized for her hard work and dedication to the tourism industry, having started the Holiday Hotel in June, 1965 as a small inn that catered to travelers, mostly fishermen, who came in by boat to Ambergris Caye. Between her hard work, brains and business sense, she and her husband John Greif Jr. managed to bring flights to the island (now known as Tropic Air) and a new era of tourism began. To date, The Holiday Hotel is a landmark resort that caters to visitors, with many repeat customers who, year after year, keep coming back for more. Congratulations to Ms. Celi Nuñez-McCorkle, on your well-deserved award.

    The full list of winners is as follows: Cultural Award of the Year: Three Kings of Belize; Frontline Person of the Year: Benjamin Awe (Chaa Creek); Tour Guide of the Year: Eloy Quevas (Monkey River Retreat); Small Vendor of the Year: Tutti Frutti Ice Gelateria; Restaurant of the Year: Blue Water Grill (San Pedro); Receptive Service of the Year: Museum of Belize; Environmental Organization of the Year: International Center for Responsible Tourism (ICRT - Belize); Small Hotel of the Year: The Lodge at Big Falls; Tour Operator of the Year: Caves Branch Adventure Company; Hotel of the Year: Jaguar Reef Lodge; Destination of the Year: Hopkins, Stann Creek; Minister’s Award: Brian Young Sr.; Lifetime Achievement Award: Celi McCorkle, Holiday Hotel.

    The San Pedro Sun wishes to acknowledge the BTB on their innovative strategy at this year’s awards. There were new features in the awards location which included an internet kiosk for those wishing to update fans, friends and family of their win, plus live-streaming of the show for the world to see, and a separate media room where the media was able to interview winners uninterrupted by the ceremonies. In keeping up with technology and the fast-paced technological world, it was especially helpful to have a venue to keep the news going.
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