BTIA members agree to proceed with re-structuring of Association

At an Extraordinary General Meeting held November 15 at the Chateau Caribbean, 38 members of the Belize Tourism Industry Association voted to amend their constitution with regard to the use of proxies.

The use of proxies has been addressed several times over the past five years. Initially, the number of proxies a member could vote was unlimited. Due to perceived abuses, the constitution was amended resulting in a member being restricted to three proxies. Last Saturday's amendment to the constitution to allow one proxy per member was a direct result of the membership's concern. The limited proxy proponents contended that because members do not attend meetings, instead giving their vote by proxy allows a small group to control an election or influence the vote on an important issue. The consensus of the membership was that members must make a greater effort to attend annual general meetings and in the event they could not attend a proxy may be used. The amendment is as follows:

"26(a) The instrument appointing a proxy shall be in writing under the hand of the appointer or of his attorney duly authorised in writing, or, if the appointer is a corporation, either under seal or under the hand of an officer or attorney duly authorised, and in either case in the presence of a justice of the peace. A proxy need not be a member of the association. (b) The holder of a proxy must be present at the meeting at which he is to vote and may hold proxy for not more than one member of the Association at any one meeting."

The proposed re-organization plan for BTIA was presented by Jack Nightingale, secretary of the Association and chairman of the Reorganization Committee.

The basic plan calls for the BTIA to change from an individual membership association to a sector/destination membership association. Currently BTIA functions as an umbrella association for three sectors in the tourism industry - The Belize Hotel Association (BHA), Belize Eco-Tourism Association (BETA) and Belize Tour Operators (BTOA). The three associations have a seat on the board of directors of BTIA, and a requirement of membership in the sector associations is membership in BTIA. By changing to a sector/destination association, BTIA's membership would be comprised of possibly 20 sector/destination associations. Each sector would be self sufficient and pay a membership fee to the parent association. It is envisioned new sectors will be created to better serve the needs of the rapidly expanding tourism industry and also to specifically respond to the particular needs of each segment; ie. hotels. restaurant, tour operators, tour guides, water taxis, boat owners, handicrafts, gift shops etc.

It is envisioned that the secretariat (BTIA) will handle the lobby efforts of all sectors as well as private sector/destination marketing in coordination with the sectors. Also an ombudsman service will be offered to all sectors and individuals and to the Government. This service will consider any grievance in need of resolution within the tourism industry. BTIA will continue the management of the Marine Museum, Destination Belize, BETEX, etc. It will also provide support service and technical assistance to the sectors as well as administer "Service Best" training.

The membership voted to continue with the re-structuring plan and instructed the committee to visit each sector and destination to present the plan and explain the financial aspects of the proposed changes. A general meeting will also be held in Belize City to present the plan.

The third item on the agenda was whether or not to amend the constitution to permit the established sectors in BTIA to accept members that are non-BTIA members. It was pointed out by the board of directors that with restructuring on the horizon it may behoove the Association to allow non membership for the next six months. The suggestion was emphatically rejected. Members advised that the sectors currently hold seats on the board of directors because they represent BTIA members. Should the sectors wish to increase their membership with non-BTIA members, then they would have to give up their seat on the board of directors. The vote on the issue was unanimous to adhere to and uphold the constitution.

The floor was opened for "Other Matters". The board was questioned regarding rumors of financial irregularities which are alleged to have taken place. Susan Fuller, President of the Association commented, "Yes, there has been a discovery of some irregularities. The board has taken every step to deal with it. The matter has been turned over to the police and BTIA has retained an attorney." When questioned if the board was pressing charges she replied that the police were dealing with the criminal aspect of the situation and that the board would not comment further on the matter until their attorney had time to review the matter.

On Monday, November 17, 1997, Executive Director of the Association Linda Muñoz e-mailed members regarding the questioned financial irregularities. "Dear Members, We wish to advise you that the former controller is no longer employed by the Association. After an initial suspension, Mr. Guerrero was dismissed for just cause. Over the past two weeks efforts were made to settle this matter, but this has not been possible. As a result, we are now pressing charges. Thank you, (signed) Linda Muñoz, Executive Director."

BTIA members agree to proceed with re-structuring of Association

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