According to Dr. Victor Gonzalez, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and the Environment, the March 14th meeting in San Pedro is an unprecedented event. Gonzalez said that meetings (hearings) of the committee usually take place in Belmopan and the public may present input. "It is historic that the committee is bringing the consultation to San Pedro." Gonzalez also commented that the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Henry Young wants to ensure that San Pedro hoteliers were familiar with the legislation and would be given an opportunity to comment and give input on the Act. (Minister Young sent draft copies of the Act, the San Pedro Town Board made additional copies so that all attending the meeting would have a copy for reference.)
San Pedro B.T.I.A. president, Einer Gomez presided over the meeting and introduce Mrs. Teresa Parkey, president of the Belize Hotel Association. Mrs. Parkey has attended planning meetings with the BTB and members of government and the private sector over the past year, and was asked to present the proposed Act to the audience. Parkey told the hoteliers that her presentation would highlight the items that were proposed (not in effect in the current Hotel Act). She said she would review the draft legislation and that the hoteliers should mark the items that required clarification and a question and answer period would follow.
Following the reading of the proposed Act, the first item of discussion was the interpretation of "Hotel". The new act interprets a "Hotel" as any building containing not less than 10 bedrooms with kitchen(s) and dining room(s). Questions were raised as to whether or not hotels that are currently in operation that do not have 10 rooms and a restaurant would be able to continue operating using the name "Hotel". The Act has a "Grandfather clause" in which existing hotel businesses will be able to continue, but future businesses will need to comply with the standards set forth in the Act. The second area of concern to be discussed was the reference to "minimum standards" and a document entitled "Minimum Standards for the Tourist Accommodation Sector of Belize". Parkey said her understanding of the two documents was that the Hotel and Tourist Accommodation Act would be enacted first. Then consultations would be held to discuss the "Minimum Standards". Although the new Act refers to minimum standards, it does not clearly refer to the proposed "Minimum Standards" document.
Other changes in the proposed Hotel Act have to do with Owners and the definition of owners in respect to condominium projects; the duties and powers of the Registrar of Hotels; the definition of tourist accommodations; the process of application for a hotel licence and the licence fees, and the regulation of standards for hotels and tourist accommodations.
A committee was set up to receive suggestions for presentation at the March 14th meeting of the Economic Development Committee. The March 14th meeting will also be the second reading of the Act. Following the third reading, and a vote in favour, the act will become law. Persons wishing to comment should put their suggestions or observations in writing and fax or mail them to Einer Gomez at Ramon's Village or Victoria Collins at the San Pedro Sun. The deadline for comments is Saturday, March 8th.