The Belize Tourism Industry Association hosted a fund raising dinner/dance June 18th at the Belize Yacht Club. A slight delay because of an electrical outage started the night off, but guests were finally seated for dinner and the dance followed from 11 - 2 a.m. Music was provided by Santino's Messengers. The general public was invited to attend.
The Annual General Meeting took place the following morning, Saturday, June 19th. General Manager Kelvin Ramnarace called the meeting to order and introduced President Susan Fuller, who expressed how pleased she was at the turn-out. Vice President in charge of Marketing, Alex King then welcomed everyone, and agreed that the attendance doubled last year's, and especially thanked the people who showed up from the south. He also gave credit to San Pedro for re-organizing their chapter.
Minutes from last year's AGM were read and confirmed. There was a suggestion that minutes of meetings should be mailed out to attendees in advance for confirmation or correction in order to conserve time in meetings. The failure of last year's BETEX was discussed with suggestions of a professional to market this year's show. An offer was heard from one member, about a Caribbean Hotel Association consulting agent that is willing to work for a fee and it was agreed this person should contact Kelvin for more information. It was also suggested that everyone in the tourism industry should be notified of the show to increase more countrywide participation.
The Treasurer's report was then given by Treasurer Ida Sauceda. It was shown that the bank balance increased while the amount of accounts receivables went down. An overall decrease in expenditures was noted; the only exception being that of office supplies, printing and postage due to the newsletter and membership drive. She commented on hiring a new auditor, Mr. Jose A. Bautista who brought more expertise and financial advice to the association. She continued by saying she would like to see more money going back into destinations which received much applause from the crowd.
The General Manager then highlighted BTIA's efforts of the last year. Number one was the lobbying efforts of BTIA. Taxes were the main concern with the introduction of Business Tax. They will currently be focusing on Sales Tax and how it affects each person in the industry. He welcomes input from all members on this subject in the future. Next, issues of the Fort Point Area and Cruise Ship policies were brought up. He stated that consultations are continuing and that input is needed on these very controversial issues. The Tour Operators Statutory Instrument was another effort and BTIA was part of this committee as well as being represented on the committee for the recent Gaming Laws. Membership was quoted as being under 200 in 1998 and increased to 317 plus in 1999, which brought up the subject of the awards given at the previous night's dinner to Dangriga, Caye Caulker and Placencia for increased membership. He stressed that he hoped all would become active members as well. He mentioned BTIA had been kept busy with destination visits the previous year. The establishment of the Belize Tourism Council concluded his list of accomplishments, noting that BTIA was represented in addition to the private sector. They now have more direct access to the Minister of Tourism and the Belize Tourism Board. He thanked both for the $100,000 grant for marketing and stated projects such as the new website, subsidizing costs of booths at BETEX, and destination brochures would benefit as a result. Other efforts of BTIA were the BETEX show, Destination Belize magazine, and a five-year plan for Mundo Maya which was presented to the Minister. He ended the presentation with mention of a strategic plan for the reorganization of BTIA. This will be aided by a team of experts from the United States free of charge with the exception of air and lodging. He thanked the entire staff for their help in achieving the last year's goals.
President Susan Fuller then took time to thank the many board members and individuals who had helped in her endeavors as president. She stated her "proudest moment" as the re-emergence of the Dangriga Chapter giving credit to Treasurer Ida and Terry Rath for this. She added the new Belize National Tourism Council should be a serious advantage to lobbying efforts and thanked BTB for their "hands-on" involvement. Susan Vega then presented an award to the outgoing President Fuller.
A presentation was given by Anselmo Casteñeda on behalf of the Department of Environment, introducing the formation of the Belize National Council for Sustainable Development. This council is in keeping with the Agenda 21 agreement by all governments at the Rio Summit of 1992 and comprised of Prime Ministers, Presidents, various Ministries, Civil and Economic (industry/commerce) Societies. The main principle is the "common good" of all and keeping an "environmental equilibrium" or peaceful co-existence between humans and nature. After this presentation, the group broke for lunch.
Next on the agenda was a speech by Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Hon. John Briceño. He apologized to the gathering for his delay, claiming "the plane was overbooked from Miami, and guess what? - It was full of tourists!" He started by pointing out the recent $10.35 million grant for the Mesoamerican Reef System Project and how this will benefit research, tour guide education, fishermen and tourism in the long run. He added that tourism is a $3.5 trillion business globally that generates over 200 million jobs, impacts all industries and spurs economic growth. "Empty bellies don't think about the environment," was how he explained the difficulties when dealing with the delicate balance between development and the environment. He ended by commending BTIA for their good work.
The old Board of Directors of the BTIA was then dissolved by motion and the election process for the new one commenced. The new Board of Directors consists of: President - Ida Sauceda; 1st Vice President - Trevor Roe; 2nd Vice President - Mike Panton; Treasurer - Ramon Cervantes; Secretary - Jim Scott; Mundo Maya Representative - Maria Vega.
Incoming President Ida Sauceda then thanked everyone for their support and promised to fulfill their expectations in the coming year. She completed her first role as president by adjourning the meeting.
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