Economic Development Committee Hearing Held in San Pedro to Receive Comments on Hotel and Tourist Accommodation Bill

Pictured above from left to right are committee members the Honourables Florencio Marin, Henry Young and Ruben Campos.
Members of the Economic Development Committee traveled to San Pedro on March 14, 1997 to hold a hearing for hoteliers in San Pedro and Caye Caulker to comment or make recommendations to the proposed Hotel and Tourist Accommodations Bill, 1997.

The hearing was chaired by Minister Ruben Campos. Other committee members included Minister of Tourism and the Environment, Hon. Henry Young, Hon. Florencio Marin, and Mr. Ken from the National Assembly. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, Dr. Victor Gonzalez, Dr. Winston McCalla and members of the Belize Tourist Board were present to respond to inquiries.

In addition to local hoteliers and members of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), BTIA national president Paul Hunt, CEO Linda Munoz and George Bevier of the Belize Hotel Association were present.

Minister Young gave the introductory remarks commenting that the first Hotel Bill was introduced in 1978 and that there were two amendments, one in 1990 and one in 1991. The recent exercise is to merge all the amendments and SI's to make it easier to follow. He mentioned that by and large 90 percent of the current legislation remains as per the old provisions.

Representing the San Pedro Chapter of the BTIA, president Einer Gomez addressed the chapter's concern regarding the "grandfather clause" in the proposed bill. Dr. McCalla responded that the grandfather clause in fact did not refer to the bill but to the minimum standards that have yet to be enacted. McCalla explained that the "minimum standards" will be addressed following the passage of the Hotel and Accommodations bill, and that there will be consultation with the industry regarding the proposed standards.

Paul Hunt addressed the committee with a request that section 19 (2)(b) be eliminated. Section 19 2 reads: "The proprietor of every hotel or tourist accommodation shall for the purpose of this Act maintain or cause to be maintained at the hotel or tourist accommodation in the prescribed forms -

(a) daily revenue journals supported by special numbered guests bills which shall be balanced daily. (b) monthly foreign and local currency receipt registers and bank statements."
Hunt stated that it was his feeling that (b) was a negative message to investors.

Minister Young responded to Hunt's request saying that he felt that any investor in Belize will want to keep transparent records, that item (b) is currently a part of the Hotel Act, and recommended that the item remain. Young stated that the request for omission of this item has been brought up at previous meetings and that the Kevin Gonzalez, Director of the Tourist Board had sought the advice of Central Bank on the issue.

Linda Munoz, Executive Director of BTIA addressed the Committee and asked that the comments and recommendations from members of the Association be entered. Munoz said that comments/suggestion came out of meeting held over the past year with the BTB and industry members. Minister Campos asked that in addition to the recommendations being minuted, a written copy be presented. After all comments were presented the meeting was adjourned. The third reading of the bill is scheduled to be read in the House in early April. It is unknown if a revised copy of the document will be circulated prior to the third reading.

The following is from the Central Bank with regard to Section 19 (2)(b):

Dear Mr. Gonzalez,
I refer to your letter of March 4, 1997, requesting the Central Bank of Belize's comments on Section 19(2) Subsection 2(b) of the Hotel and Tourist Accommodation Bill 1997.

As far as the Central Bank is concerned, the Sections of the Bill on which you have asked for comments are critical to the process of database generation. Key players in both the private and public sectors continuously complain of the absence of a comprehensive database that could assist in decision making. And the Central Bank acknowledges a need to improve its understanding of the earning capacity of the tourism sector.

As the tourism sector grows in importance in the national economy, the need for Belize to improve its capacity to generate tourism statistics is becoming even more urgent. I therefore support the inclusion of the said Sections in the Hotel and Tourist Accommodation Bill 1997.

It appears that while the current law provides for the collection of data, the appropriate authorities have not ensured that hoteliers comply with the law. Perhaps the Belize Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism should be encouraged to improve their efforts at ensuring compliance of the law in respect of the generation of data.

If the Central Bank had a copy of the complete bill, it would be able to offer additional comments.

Sincerely yours,
/s/ Keith Arnold, Governor

San Pedro Sun

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