San Pedro business community expresses frustration to BTB

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 9, No. 42            November 4, 1999

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Anthony Mahler, Tracy Taegar and Evan Tillett of BTB

Director of the Belize Tourism Board, Ms. Tracy Taegar and her management team consisting of Mr. Anthony Mahler, Deputy Director of Product Development; Mr. Evan Tillett, Deputy Director of Finance and Administration and Manager of Human Resources were in San Pedro to meet with the tourism community for an open forum. The session was attended by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of San Pedro Town; a Product Development Representative; members of the Tourism Industry; Health Inspector, Florencio Acosta; Hol Chan Manager, Miguel Alamilla; Green Reef President, Mito Paz;  Assistant Superintendent of Police, Rudolph Orio and members of the media.

    After the representatives of the BTB presented themselves and stated that the purpose of their visit was to hear the concerns of those present, the attendees bluntly expressed their frustration. One of the members present noted that throughout the many sessions they have had with BTB representative and others, they had voiced their concerns and nothing has been done. Their requests are never answered nor concerns alleviated. It was mentioned that they had lost faith in the BTB because of this same reason. An example from a Product Development Representative was, that up-to-date, their committee hasn't accomplished anything because of the lack of financing. It was suggested they might be at a stand-still possibly because Central Government was afraid to tackle their large requests because of the financial commitment needed. These projects include street repairs, land fill, health and security. All these are all essential for the growth of San Pedro's tourism industry.

    ASP Orio spoke about the tight schedule that his constables have to work. Some of them are working double and triple shifts. In San Pedro alone, which is a growing community, he only counts sixteen constables and in Caye Caulker Village, six. For the force to perform adequately he would need twice this amount. He expressed the great need for more human and mobility resources. He also suggested it would be a good idea to lobby for an additional Sergeant for San Pedro. He continued by letting the BTB know about the bad housing facilities for the constables and suggested additional and more adequate housing for the police officers. This, he said, could alleviate the housing costs in Caye Caulker and San Pedro. While on the subject, the topic of Tourism Police came up. To this topic, again, great concern was expressed with reference to Tourism Police being posted in San Pedro only temporarily during festivals. It was brought to the Director's attention that San Pedro has a large population and Tourism Police are needed throughout the year, not only during the high season. One person added that San Pedro hotels have been paying the additional 1% tax, that was increased several years ago, to be used for the training of Tourism Police to be dispersed in the various destinations, but it still has not been done. To this, the Director of Tourism responded that the Tourism Police Unit (TPU) was not in the budget and that the Tourism Board continues to pay the expenses of the TPU. She continued to explain that the Ministry of Security and the Ministry of Tourism are now discussing this issue.

    Another topic brought up was the irony of San Pedro being Belize's most popular vacation destination and the only one without a tourist information center. Since it is number one and paying the highest percentage of taxes, it should be a main priority for a tourism center.

    Ms. Taegar suggested they try to get the Area Representative involved so as to have more representation with the various ministries. She promised to do her best to lobby for the needs of San Pedro and ensured tangible visits and realizations. She continued by saying that she knows that she will not be trusted until things actually happen, but assured that they will; maybe not in a month, but after a while the trust of the BTB will be regained. She asked the group to prioritize three of their main concerns. The group came up with a list consisting of infrastructure, health and security. The team present believes that these are only the beginning of the many concerns hampering the growth of the tourism industry in San Pedro.

    Another person suggested it might be a good idea, beneficial to both the tourist community of Ambergris Caye and the BTB, if a BTB branch would be opened in San Pedro. Ms. Taegar said she would look into the feasibility of doing this.

    In closing, the Director and her management team assured the group that they would take back their concerns to the board, the different ministries and the correct channels to try to satisfy the needs of Ambergris Caye, Belize's primary tourist destination.



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