BTIA - Local chapter or not?

At a meeting on Saturday, February 13th at SunBreeze Hotel, this question was raised by present chapter members of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA). The decision was made to invite all local members to one more meeting to decide the fate of the San Pedro Chapter of the BTIA. Due to lack of support, this group has been defunct for the last year.

Julia Edwards welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for their support. Belize Tourist Board Director Valerie Woods addressed the gathering with a review of what has been accomplished by the BTB since the reorganization. Samples of Belize's various advertising campaigns in a variety of magazines were displayed to the crowd. Clark & Pope, the ad agency designated by BTB has changed the logo to, "Belize - Mother Nature's best kept secret." Another added marketing feature is a 24 hour, 800 number that tourists can call for information on Belize. This will make it easy to track the effectiveness of the ads. To aid the ad agency in their marketing endeavor the Tourist Board is appealing to all Ambergris hoteliers for data concerning their present and projected occupancy figures. This information is vitally needed to assist them in additional marketing plans and suitable utilization of their budget. Airline arrivals on the island are also being tracked. Along these lines it was noted that a new tourist information booth is being staffed at Phillip Goldson International Airport for public relations. This person will work with Customs and Immigration officials in gathering statistics and weekly reports will be made available.

On the subject of Minimum Standards, the Director said they have been signed, but they can be amended. Feedback from the industry is welcomed in regards to these. Legislation is pending on policies for cruise ships. She is asking for input on private sector requirements and stressed that the BTB will not proceed with legislation without proper consultation.

Ms. Woods also spoke on behalf of Tracy Garcia, Deputy Director responsible for Marketing and Public Relations, about the local awareness marketing strategy that is currently happening. Projects include an Anti-Litter Crusade from February 14 through September 21, 1999, and a BTIA beautification campaign. She also mentioned that BTB was offered a complementary booth at the Diver's Equipment Manufacturer's Association's annual show next year. They plan to attend this as well as European Trade shows.

The Director also announced the BTB is awaiting legislation on the Belize National Tourism Council. This group, composed of public and private sector individuals will review accomplishments of the BTB and make recommendations to them. Additionally the Inter-development Bank is working with them on the Caracol and Training Institute projects.

Area Representative, Hon. Patty Arceo took the floor next. She expressed that her recent trip to Cuba was very encouraging. Urged by Cuba's President, Fidel Castro, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Mark Espat is devising a plan for an airlink between our two countries to encourage more Cuban and European tourism in the future.

Ms. Arceo then spoke of the many projects on the agenda for San Pedro. Challenging areas include:

  • 1)Traffic - Enforcing the moratorium for vehicles; parking at the airports; and the police being located at various schools at lunch time and strictly enforcing traffic laws to provide more safety for all people;
  • 2) Relocation of the two piers to the Marina in an effort to keep the barges out of the public eye (two-year plan);
  • 3)Dredging is to continue and will be moving to the back of the island soon; and
  • 4)Streets - Heavy traffic is to be redirected and long term improvements to the back streets and part of Coconut Drive. A plan to upgrade the ferry system for better access in an emergency was also mentioned. Feasibility studies are being conducted in these areas.
She ended her presentation by urging the people to voice their concerns to the various Ministers and Government officials they encounter in an effort to validate what she is expressing to them on behalf of the island's needs. She stressed that taxes and fees for licenses need to be paid in order for the San Pedro Town Board to complete their many tasks. Owners are urged to cancel or transfer Trade Licenses when giving up their businesses as SPTB includes these monies in their annual budget.

The meeting concluded with the issue of the local BTIA Chapter. On a sad note, Ms. Julia Edwards, President of BTIA San Pedro officially and formerly resigned her position. She explained her disappointment in the last year's non-productivity and attendance, but offered her full support as a member in the future. A discussion followed this announcement about members concerns. Membership dues and their allocation were high on the list of issues. It was stated that San Pedro made up nearly a third of the BTIA membership. Members voiced that they had not seen how this community had benefited from the dues of their membership. It was mentioned that San Pedro now has a Product Development Committee and that it could possibly take the place of the BTIA in promoting Ambergris Caye.

Kelvin Ramnarace, of BTIA, explained their organization is made up of 16 Board of Directors representing all destinations in Belize. If San Pedro had no representation to disclose its concerns, it could expect no results at its meetings. Hence, another meeting will be held on Saturday, February 27th at the SunBreeze Hotel Conference Room at 10:00 a.m. It is imperative members attend this very important meeting to decide the future of the San Pedro Branch of the BTIA.

BTIA - Local chapter or not?

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