President Einer Gomez reviewed the chapter's activities over the past year and congratulated the outgoing board on their efforts. Gomez said that the membership had grown and more members attended meetings due to the chapter having an active board of directors. During the 96-97 year the chapter hosted the international press prior to Betex '96, the country's first trade show. In August the chapter manned the admission gate and a booth at the Sea & Air Festival. In January the island was represented at DEMA, the dive industry's largest trade show by the BTIA. The BTIA/USAID map project is nearing completion. A map of San Pedro Town with information for visitors will be published. BTIA members establishments will be highlighted on the map. Two major clean-ups took place, last year in August prior to the Sea & Air Festival and this year prior to Earth Day. Another cleanup is scheduled for August.
"We have been closely working with the Town Board on tourism related issues," Gomez continued. "Letters have been written to various ministries with regard to town problems; dogs, police, health hazards." Gomez also cited the BTIA's meetings with the taxi drivers which led to the drivers recently forming a taxi association and improving their professional conduct.
Currently BTIA is planning for Betex '97. Ambergris Caye and Cayo will join forces and present the "Reef and the Rainforest" pavilion. The BTIA booth at Betex has been partially funded by the Town Board. BTIA has again been asked to host 25 members of the international press prior to the tradeshow. A cocktail party and reception will be held at the Paradise Hotel on July 15. Rooms are needed for the visitors.
Mr. Ellis was asked to give an overview of the recent proposal from the Organizational Review committee to change the national structure of BTIA. Ellis said, "Last year the Association focused on internal changes in the office brought about by the withdrawal of USAID funding. We are seeing an evolution in the Association where the sectors (Belize Hotel Assn., Belize Tour Operators and the Tour Guides) have tended to take care of their particular business, but at the same time not wanting to move away from BTIA. The proposal being made is one of concept, yours to accept or not to accept. If the concept is accepted it will take some time to work out the details." The concept proposes sectoral representation on the board of directors rather than individual representation - sectors such as hotels, gift shops, restaurants, tour guides, etc. Membership would be per sector and BTIA would change into a chamber of tourism. It is also proposed that each sector would operate on its own for membership and financing, however, BTIA would have to be financed by the sectors.
A lively question and answer period followed, the most pertinent question being, "What happens to the destinations?" Ellis suggested that the chapter discuss the concept and submit its concerns or suggestions to the national board. He said the concept would be discussed at the AGM on June 14, 1997.
Other new business on the agenda was the discussion of new Hotel Tax Forms. Copies of the forms were circulated. The BTB (Belize Tourist Board) plans to put the new forms into use on September 1. BTB will conduct an educational campaign regarding the new forms.
The '96-'97 board was dissolved and thanked for their efforts. A motion was made and passed unanimously that the current board remain in office and new director be elected. Secretary Donna Koehnen advised the chapter that she could not accept the position as she would be leaving the island. Brent Kirkman of Victoria House was elected secretary to serve along with president Einer Gomez, vice president Catherine Paz and treasurer Melanie Paz. Gach Guerrero was elected to the position of area representative and Virgina Furnell of Mayan Princess, Carmita Cardenez of Banyan Bay and Rodney Hetzel of the Conch Shell Hotel will serve as directors.
BTIA meets the fourth Thursday of every month at the Town Hall. The meeting begin at 7:30 p.m. visitors are welcome.