Destination concerns were the main subject at Wednesday morning's Belize Tourism Industry Association meeting. Membership Service Officer, Jeffrey Avilez arranged the visit on behalf of several tourism organizations, although only Theresa Parkey of Belize Hotel Association (BHA) was able to attend. She explained that BHA had met with leaders of Belize National Tour Operators Association (BNTOA) and BTIA deciding to meet with destinations to show the unity of their organizations.
The first order of business was the new Hotel Minimum Standards Act. It was announced that inspectors would soon be visiting hotels with a checklist of standards and those businesses would have until December of 1999 to comply or correct any violations. The classification of hotel was clarified as meaning a minimum of ten rooms with a kitchen and dining area on premises. It was stated that whatever classification a business is described as, they must comply with the standards associated with that type. As with most laws there was also a question of enforcement and definition. It was mentioned there would be workshops held by BHA and Belize Eco-Tourism Association (BETA) to educate those who need to comply with standards.
Hotel and Sales Tax differences were discussed. Ms. Parkey assured all that BHA and others were working on educating the Sales Tax office on the way the tourism industry works in regards to taxing customers.
The Tour Operators Statutory Instrument was next on the agenda. It was explained that if your hotel is not providing the tour, you would not need a Tour Operator's license. Questioned was the matter of liability insurance for tour operators. Another concern was capacity standards of boat trips and water taxis; many noted several instances of overbooking and again, the lack of, or no enforcement of this law.
General destination concerns and enforcement of laws for most were next on the table. Craft vendors harassing customers, children peddling late at night, and a designated central location for peddlers to display and children to play were discussed. The age old question of tourism police was brought up and why the island has to fund the housing and feeding to utilize them. It was explained that for reasons unknown, San Pedro was not budgeted for tourism police. A room at the police barracks was mentioned as potential housing and that feeding them should come out of their salary. Both BTIA and BHA agreed to look into this and assured there would be lobbying for San Pedro Town to include tourism police by next April, in the next budget session.
Traffic control and the need to control the number of vehicles and the speeding populace were the next subject. A number of stories were related and will be relayed to the proper authorities.
The issue of visas between countries and a need to review legislation in this area was the final discussion. It was mentioned that some of the laws were written around the time of Independence (1981) for various reasons and could be due for amendments. It was decided more research into foreign affairs was needed to pursue this matter more vigorously.
The meeting ended with many thanks to the BTIA and BHA representatives for their concern for our destination.
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