Marine, Ecology and Tourism Learning Center proposed for San Pedro

Green Reef has put forth a proposal to the Belize Tourism Board to establish a "Learning Center" to be located in San Pedro. The purpose is to provide education for tour guides and service industry personnel requiring additional occupational training. Funding is the challenge and while this is pending, they have been given permission to start training. Together with the San Pedro Tour Guide Association (SPTGA) they have arranged classes to begin twice a week starting April 6th at the Town Hall. These will be offered to new applicants and tour guides with provisional licenses. Qualified lecturers and trainers have volunteered a portion of their services while the other portion is to be funded by a small fee guides will pay for classes. Interested persons should contact Green Reef at 2833 or SPTGA at 2391. The following is a brief summary of the proposal written for the Belize Tourism Board.

Coral Reefs, tropical rainforests, coastal wetlands and other renewable natural resources collectively represent one of Belize's greatest economic assets. "Eco-tourism" has developed by showcasing these natural assets and is a major source of national revenue. Effective "eco-tourism" is not typical of the type of high volume mass tourism prevalent in many other Caribbean locations. By its nature, this type of tourism depends on small business operations; individually owned and run businesses with relatively low volume and low overhead. Highly dependant on return business it depends on quality service.

The success of these businesses depends on providing quality education and training to tourist providers. This training can insure high standards of delivery, consistent quality of product and preservation of the natural resources by reducing human impact. The need for a quality educational training center is evident. Through recognized training facilities, providers can receive appropriate training that will increase their volume and profit margin. Nationally, business owners, concerned citizens, ministries and the Government can be confident of the quality of training since the recognition process can provide appropriate quality controls. Tourists benefit by receiving quality service which in turn results in repeat business and "word of mouth" promotion of the product.

Since the tourism industry depends on daily delivery of their product at all levels, (guides, hotel personnel, food service and preparation, customer service businesses, enforcement, etc.) ready access to quality training is also an issue. Individuals and businesses need to have access to training and certification at a reasonable cost at locations which allow the employee to continue to work while they are in training. Thus, the training must not only be delivered by qualified trainers, supported by high quality, appropriately created and reviewed curriculum, but the training must be readily accessible to the trainee.

In order to create adequate access to quality training, Green Reef and the Belize Tourism Industry Association of Caye Caulker have entered into an agreement to jointly create a Tourism and Marine Ecology Learning Center which will provide on-site training for Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The agreement has been established through a Memorandum of Understanding. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are among the most important tourist destinations in Belize and have a high density of tourism related businesses. The need to provide accessible quality training at these sites is evident.

The Learning Center will draw on the substantial resources and experience of both organizations which include: appropriate established curriculum, quality lecturers and significant training experience at all educational levels and with all types of delivery. The Learning Center will provide common training programs at sites on both Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker and will provide training to members of these communities as well as individuals wishing to travel to the training sites. The Learning Center will provide administrative housing support to such participants. Under specified conditions and where appropriate, the Learning Center can also provide some types of training to qualified individuals in a distance learning format.

Project Description and Content: Ambergris Caye Site
Initially the Learning Center of Ambergris Caye will offer tour guide training and a Marine Ecology Course. Program curriculum for tour guide training will be the training program that was developed jointly by the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism. The Marine Ecology Course is targeted mainly at tour guides and other individuals involved in the onsite operational end of marine environment related tourism. The course was developed for Green Reef by Joseph Caruso, Ph.D., an experienced educator with specialties in microorganisms and parasites and graduate training in Marine Biology.
Instructional Materials and Resources
For tour guide training, the program manual generated by BTIA, BTB and the Ministry of Tourism will be used. Specific materials for the marine ecology component will include chapters from general text books, journal articles, lecture supplements and flora and fauna species lists available through the Ministry of Natural Resources, Coastal Zone Management, Fisheries Department, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Eco-sur and Green Reef. Green Reef will provide additional instructional and curricular expertise through its own experienced staff and its on-going relationships with numerous marine and terrestrial conservation organizations. Permission for use and reproduction of materials will be obtained and provided by Green Reef and covered under administrative costs.
Physical Facilities
The administrative office for the Ambergris Caye site will be Green Reef Headquarters office located on Barrier Reef Drive, (across from the Lions Den) San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. The office has administrative staff, phone, computer/e-mail and record keeping resources. Marketing, record keeping, accounting, scheduling and program management will be carried out through the administrative office by Green Reef personnel. The Ambergris Caye site will be operated based on the "school without walls" educational model. Brian Matayoshi, Ph.D., Executive Director of Green Reef, has several years of experience as a teacher and administrator working with this type of educational environment. Dr. Matayoshi has acted as an on-site administrator for Empire State College and is qualified operationally to manage such an educational model.

Classrooms have been secured at several locations in San Pedro so that training can be provided reliably on an on-going basis during days or evenings, on any day or combination of days during the month. Arrangements will be made through Green Reef so that instructors/trainers will have instructional materials and audiovisual resources available on-site in each classroom at the start of each class. The registration of program participants and course evaluations will be handled by Green Reef staff and the course instructor at each classroom site. Other administrative program functions will be carried out at the administrative office.

Arrangements have been made by Green Reef to secure a low overnight rate from several hotels for participants who are traveling to the training session. Dr. Matayoshi who has significant experience in distance learning education will manage this function with the assistance of the specific course instructors. It is hoped that the distance learning option can help relieve some of the financial burden on qualified traveling participants.

Marine, Ecology and Tourism Learning Center proposed for San Pedro

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