Last week was the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) 34th Annual General Meeting.
Having covered a couple of BTIA San Pedro Chapter meetings and participated in “For the Love of San Pedro” Garbage clean up, I was already supportive of our local chapter. I wanted to learn more about what the next level was. Thanks to my Editor Shirlee who was also the San Pedro Chapter’s secretary for one year, and Executive Director John M. Burjos I was able to attend.
Of course, true to our Sesame Street Style, I did not have to ask who was going, I just left it for a surprise. Sure enough, there was a small social gathering happening when I arrived at Tropic Air as we waited for our flight. It was fun chatting with our island version of “Powerpuff Girls” – President Melanie Paz also GM of the Palms, vice-president and San Pedro Sun newspaper owner Tamara Sniffen, Co-owner for Xite Belize, Tammy Peterson, and Marco Gonzalez founder Jan Brown. They all know how to use their superpowers towards making this island a better place.
Straight off I was impressed. After recently writing some holiday health tips, the meeting was started with an important talk about our minds. One in five people experiences mental health difficulties to widely varying degrees. There is no escaping that our mental health often takes a backseat when it shouldn’t. We need to consider it more, especially those working in the demanding tourism industry. With the busy holiday season, stress can easily build.
This was music to my ears. Living a large part of my life managing strong anxiety, I have long been aware of how important good mental health is. This discussion needs to happen in all businesses during busy times. During slower times, business owners should join forces and help staff have quality downtime. When it is busier, everyone can benefit from practicing regular everyday stress management.
If you need help, in each district, there are resources available. Mind Health Connect website has a focus on improving mental health and has compiled a list of Mental Health Clinics and related health services in Belize.
The Belize Tourism Industry Association is working towards efficiency and success in 2020. They will keep being strong advocates on national issues countrywide and provide their members with marketing training.
What I Learned
- BTIA has three Tourism Information Centers: Orange Walk, Placencia, and Dangriga. A 4th location in Hopkins Village will soon be inaugurated.
- Many BTIA members are also active for important sustainable causes.
- Belize is ranked third for download speed in the Caribbean.
- Digi is working on the initial concept for a future version of Metropolitan Wifi for San Pedro Town.
What Business Owners Learned
Continuous improvement of quality will ensure positive, rewarding experiences at restaurants, hotel/resort stays, and tour experiences. Teaming up with other businesses will help everyone benefit and provide travelers with a better experience. Turning up the effort as a team will help foster more unified growth and sustainable development across the country.
BTIA was prepared to lead the effort with a great guest presenter, Google strategist for Central America and the Caribbean Roby Peñacastro. He gave an interesting talk on Google insights for Belize as a tourist destination at the meeting. In the afternoon he did a beneficial workshop for businesses on Google Adsense and the importance of data to the backbone of the tourism sector.
Also on the tech side, we all know fast free WiFi is a necessity these days. After all who doesn’t want people who are enjoying their offerings to be posting it on social media? DIGI is filling larger business needs with its DIGI WiFi service for bigger businesses. This will allow them to regulate their internet traffic and enhance their customers’ experience.
A few of the many achievements of the Belize Tourism Industry Association.
- Successful second annual two-day Birding Festival with over 200 people in attendance.
- Implementing new tourism events: Cayo Wellness and Corozal Coconut festivals.
- Advocates for government support in the private sector for sargasso removal; 2% tax exemption.
- Strategic planning workshop 2020-2025.
- BTIA has been a strong force to ban gillnets in Belize. Interestingly enough my Facebook friend Neville who I just learned is also Vice President of the Toledo Chapter of BTIA randomly sent this picture of a huge pile of gillnet he cleaned up while on a tour the other night. He is a strong advocate for a cleaner Belize and regularly takes local kids out on his boat for helping clean up Toledo district.
I was very pleased to see that Tamara Sniffin signed on for another term in her position. She has her finger on the pulse of this island in a very broadway.
- First Vice President Tamara Sniffen had an uncontested nomination in San Pedro.
- Secretary Tanya Silva also uncontested remains BTIA secretary for another term.
- Treasurer Pedro Perez is taking a much-needed health sabbatical and will be replaced by Reynaldo Guerrero.
Treasurer Pedro Perez was fondly regarded with an award honoring over 30 years of service. Awards also went to various chapters: – Dangriga Placencia Orange Walk, San Pedro, Toledo San Ignacio Caye Caulker, Hopkins, Corozal, and Belmopan. Below are a few of the San Pedro Chapter
BTIA knows how to make a meeting fun. At sign-in, we got orange raffle tickets. There were four prizes to be drawn and our odds were good.
Congratulations to the lucky numbers on your win:
- 326252 won dinner for two and miniature golf at Sirenian Bay in Placencia.
- 326260 won a two-course dinner for two courtesy of O restaurant at Las Terrazas.
- 326245 Certificate for 2-night 1 bed Palms Oceanfront suite.
- $50 credit winner was chosen by phone # which I will not publish.
BTIA put a call for all to help pave the road to sustainable tourism. Join them in helping Belize become more eco-friendly. All businesses and individuals need to do their part.
BTIA destination chapter structure is designed to help everyone work together. Consider joining to give your business a great tourism networking avenue.
Finances are the medium to get things done, but if you do not want to become a member, sponsorship is a great way to show support.
Whichever you decide, visit the Belize Tourism Industry Association website to learn more.
As the Beatles said… “We all get by with a little help from our friends.”
BTIA would like to give thanks to the following corporate sponsors:
- Atlantic Group bank and Insurance
- Radisson Fort George
- Tropic Air diamond sponsorship.
For meeting attendees, flying to Belize City, Tropic Air generously offered a 15% flight discount. For those who wanted fresh air and boat time, San Pedro Belize Express water taxi was also offering a discount. For those who want to do a good thing please remember to use tacogirl flight Code (For a Cause) horizon to help benefit those with Cancer.
Once I landed at the Municipal Airport in Belize City, I had tried to hook up with the Radisson van only to discover it was booked for Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) meeting goers. Thankfully I turned around and saw Mel Paz had used her superpowers to have a nice roomy ride waiting. She also kept us in stitches the whole way. Laughter is the best medicine and aerial pictures of Belize warm frozen hearts.
Although the Radisson was offering a 20% discount on lunch, I wanted fresh air and a walk. So I braved the cruise ship port area and offers of hair braiding, horse rides and taxi’s to go get one of my favorite tacogirl versions of an iced coffee – blended with chocolate and banana. A bacon egg and cheese English muffin was also in order. A perfect light meal so that I did not get drowsy afterward.
Outside the Doghouse
As for being outside the “dog house” Friday, was a wonderful throw-together party for our friend Carlene’s birthday. Technically it was a lunchtime pool party at her Tres Cocos Resort and Condos (1/2 mile north of the bridge.) However, The Dog House Sports Lounge is on-site at the which made it easy for everyone to handle their own food and drinks versus a potluck – see Dog House bar menu. 24 or so of her good island friends came out to celebrate.
Of course, there was a fabulous cake. Robbie Zeske was a star and ordered tres leches from Casa Pan Dulce (also sold by the slice.) It made everyone very happy especially Carlene, who was looking fabulous in a sexy black swimsuit 😀
One of our waiters Swift, was also willing to be a stand-in Monkey 😀 Thanks to my cousin in Texas I brought some cute party props from my fun supply stash.
It was cribbage day too and The Dog House and by the time the first half the party was wrapping up, the bar was full of weekly card players inside and out. They also host a weekly darts tournament there too.