Tour Guides Meet, Set Up License Drive

San Pedro Tourist Guide Association Chairman
Daniel Guerrero (on the right) and
Secretary John Forman hold the new signs
advising the public to hire only
licensed guides.

The San Pedro Tour Guide Association (SPTGA) met on Monday evening, September 2nd at the San Pedro Town Hall. Chairman Daniel Guerrero started the meeting by reading a letter. The letter reads as follows:

"Members and prospective members of the association, fellow members of the managing committee, Mr. Bruce Collins from the San Pedro Sun, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good evening and warm welcome to you all.

Before we proceed with the agenda for this meeting, let me express on behalf of the board of directors, our most sincere thanks and appreciation for your presence and show of continuous support to this struggling association. Fellow members, you all know that the S.P.T.G.A. (San Pedro Tour Guides Association), which was formed in the mid 80's, has had a struggling existence. However, we must commend the members of the past committees who have devoted their endeavours in the best interest of the members and the association as a whole.

Many objectives were accomplished despite the lack of support of both its members and from government. This evening, I take the opportunity to invite and encourage you all to please unite, come join hands and work together with us to pave the road into the 21st Century. I am very positive that if we were to be successful, it would only facilitate things for us and the members and the '97 and '98 committee.

Tonight, I would like to pledge to you all, that this present committee which you all elected will work harder to have things done. We have already extended cordial invitations to meet and interchange ideas with various groups, such as Hol Chan Marine Reserve, B.T.I.A., the San Pedro Town Board and other organizations related to the improvement of the tourism industry. To finalize, I would like to say that we cannot afford to leave things to be done tomorrow, for today we are here and tomorrow we may be gone. Thank you very much ."

Secretary John Forman then introduced the new members of the committee. They are Daniel Guerrero, Chairman; Billy Leslie, Vice Chairman; John Forman, Secretary; Romel Gomez, Treasurer and directors Manuel Azueta, Nano Guerrero and Norman Eiley. Mr. Forman then spoke of the members being angry about the tour guide law not being enforced and not wanting to pay their license fees. He reviewed the actions taken by the committee - sending a letter to government, the Belize Tourist Board (BTB) and the National Federation of Tour Guides (NFTG). "The response we got from the BTB was that they themselves had a problem. The amendment to the Tour Guide Statutory Instrument (SI) Number 80 of 1994 had not yet been signed. It is now signed and in effect." Caye Caulker and Placencia have already paid their license fees, they are licensed now.

The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, Dr. Victor Gonzalez and the Chairman of the NFTG Homer Leslie visited the island after the letter was sent out and discussed the new training manual for tour guides. They said that training would begin as soon as it was printed (by the end of July). They also pointed out that there were other problems with the tour guides withholding payment for their licenses - the SPTGA was not registered as a guide association with the BTB. The new SPTGA Committee has rectified that situation and the SPTGA is now registered as a tour guide association with the proper parties.

The committee advised the members that membership dues for the SPTGA would be reduced to $50 for this year for registered members from last year. A tour guide license would then be $75, a total of $125 to obtain a license. Three items would be needed to apply for a renewal of a license from the BTB:

1) A medical certificate.
2) A letter of recommendation from a recognized tour guide association.
3) One passport size photograph.
It was emphasized that these fees and requirements are for those renewing their licenses. New applicants would have to provide police reports and the other information required in addition to those listed above. They would also have to be approved for membership in the SPTGA and pay the normal $100 annual fee for membership. A grace period from September through October was extended to get this done.

Licensing was then discussed, with a multitude of comments made by the group. One gentleman said, "We paid $75 for our license last year. They didn't do anything. When you give someone $75 to do something and they don't do it, they are stealing your money." Another commented, "Lots of people are guiding without a license, without doing anything. It will happen again this year."

Members of the board reminded the group that the law is now in force - that they must be licensed. They said, "If you don't get licensed, you will be operating at your own risk, That's one reason we cut down the $100 SPTGA fee to $50. Then you will receive a letter of recommendation."

More discussion followed concerning foreigners coming in for a season, obtaining a work permit, grabbing $15,000 U.S. and then leaving. "That could be shared by all a we," he said.

A suggestion was made that members of the committee could be empowered to arrest unlicensed guides. A comment was made that "Most of the guides would sign up after someone is arrested for guiding without a license."

John Forman then read parts of the tour guide SI to the group, highlighting the penalties. (For acting as a tour guide without a license, $500 or 1 year maximum in prison or both; for a tour operator using unlicensed guides, $5,000 or a maximum of 2 years in prison or both).

Mr. Forman then reviewed the points of the meeting:

1) A grace period from the 1st of September to the end of October will be allowed for the members to be financially upgraded.
2) Large signs (regarding unlicensed guides) will be placed at the airstrip and Municipal Pier. Smaller signs (with the expense of the sign partially underwritten by the SPTGA) will be placed at dive shops and piers.
The smaller signs cost $105, but a discount is given by the BTB. A further discount will be given to dive shops by the SPTGA.

The Committee said they would try to have printed copies of the amended SI available for the members at the next meeting. They reminded everyone to first upgrade their membership to financial by paying the $50, then the they would advise everyone when the BTB would be out to the island to license.

San Pedro Sun

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San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize News