Belize Tourism Board

I learnt a lot and met some really great people

One of my favorite quotes comes from well-known author, Anais Nin – “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” When Maynor Larrieu asked me if I would present a 15-20-minute talk at the First Annual Belize Tourism Board Digital Marketing Summit, I said yes, knowing it would be one of those times in life where I needed to push myself and become a blossom over remaining a bud. I say this because due to certain side effects of being dyslexic, (which I will not get into details on) public speaking has always been a very scary thing for me. Something I try avoid when ever possible. I even did a speech in high school once about the common speaking mistakes to avoid while speaking in public. This was my thinking outside the box way to give myself acceptable creative license to make mistakes in my speech. It worked and I passed 🙂 This time I wanted to do more than just pass.

The Summit Experience

Thankfully the crazy rains we had been experiencing did not have the Tourism Board canceling the Summit. Instead it was delayed by one day, but sadly this meant a couple of the panelists had to dash off to the airport right after their speeches. I would have loved to have spoken more with freelance writer Joshua Berman and Expedia PR Director Taylor Cole. I already have Joshua’s email and exchanged business cards with Taylor, so I’m sure we will catch up online. I need to email Joshua and thank him for one of his tips, Taylor already found me on linked in and I invited her to join Belize Life group. I gave out a lot of my magnifier cards over the course of the day, and as always, they were a big hit with everyone. Karen Brodie’s slim picture cards were also well received. People enjoyed having the option to pick one of her photographs and hearing the story behind it. Before our speeches, Karen shared a very useful technique to overcome our pre-speech butterflies. She looked at me and said “just remember, fear is the same physiology as excitement”. Since I actually practice getting excited, her advice strongly struck a chord with me and worked like a charm. I knew from our one practice with a projector and having Heidi and Kendall there to critique, that my power-point was well received, but my speaking abilities needed polishing. Of course that last bit was according to my own thoughts, not theirs. I wanted to be the best I could be and provide useful informative information to countrywide business owners and to the other panelists on how they could brand themselves in today’s digital marketing world. Both Karen and I were very grateful that we were in the first set of speakers along with Joshua Berman, who was up first. As I listened to them on stage I was quietly waiting for my turn and took the stage to give my talk on the Benefits of Social Media. After my speech, I was enjoying a conversation with Stacey from BTB. She complimented me on doing a great job and we got to talking further. I admitted my speaking discomfort and we both agreed on the importance of taking opportunities to step outside your comfort zone and give yourself courage in areas where you know you are lacking it. This holds true for many in regards to social media. In my speech I mentioned how for many businesses, social media is as much fun as getting a root canal. I also explained why it is important and asked them to consider the rapidly changing numbers and how technological mobility is changing the face of tourism. Their target market could literally be standing in an elevator planning their vacation or sitting at a bar after work booking their hotel or choosing which tours they want to take. In regards to travel research and vacation planning, people are making decisions and booking in real time from their mobile phones, iPad’s and tablets. They are also sharing this information with coworkers, friends, and family.

Topics Covered

For the businesses who attended the seminar, they were privileged to learn more about a wide range of important topics: Digital content creation strategies, travel trade in digital, BTB digital marketing opportunities, social media trends in travel, and digital brand reputation. Over the course of the day there was so much valuable information in regards to creating your brand identity, standing out in the crowd, how to capture travelers through storytelling, and being authentic. The audience also gained helpful tools and tips as well as numerical insights into the travel industry. Many of the panelists (myself included), offered statistics to further stress the importance of digital marketing.

A few statistics I presented

Source – Hoot Suite:  85% of leisure travelers use their smartphone abroad. Source – The Statistics Portal: As of 2015, over 70 percent of the United States population had a social networking profile. As of the first quarter of 2015, some 580 million Facebook users accessed the social network exclusively via a mobile device, up from 341 million users in the corresponding quarter of the previous year. Source – Social Media Today: Facebook adds ½ million new users every day; 6 new profiles every second. An ever-expanding market worth tapping into. Mobile users constitute half of the world’s population and 2 million smart phones are sold worldwide every single day. 1.925 billion users utilize their mobiles for Social Media platforms. The numbers above illustrate how beneficial it can be for your brand to tap into the ever growing world of social media and digital marketing.

Emcees and Keynote Speakers

Both the emcees and keynote speakers did such a fantastic job; BTB Director of Marketing and Industry Relations; Karen Pike, CEO Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation; Abil Castaeda, Dean and Faculty of Business at UB; Kevin J. Geban, Chamberlain consulting Dion Chamberlain and Director of Cruise and Regional Initiatives; Valdemar Andrade. All of them gave us informative talks, reiterated important panelist points and hit home on the importance of the Summit, keeping current and working together to grow the Belize tourism market. Meet the Panelists The summit was filled with really great speakers that provided very useful information. Freelance Writer Joshua Berman, Travel Photographer Karen Brodie, Director of Travel at JG Blackbook of Travel; David Clarke, Director of Marketing at Largay Travel; Scott Largay, Senior Travel  Trade officer at Belize Tourism Board; Deborah Gillharry, Direct Online Manager at Belize Tourism Board; Maynor Larrieu, Social Media Brand Strategist; George Fiddler, Managing Editor Alexis Tirado, Expedia Director Taylor Cole, Digital Brand Strategist Michael Chatfield, and of course myself writer Laurie Norton. Note to the Panelists: I enjoyed meeting every one of you. Thank you for providing such insightful presentations which I learned a great deal from, and thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Belize Tourism Board
Group photo of the Panelists

What I got from the experience

First off, for anyone who wanted to go but missed the event, let me say hands down – put it in your 2016 to do list and watch the Belize Tourism Board Facebook page for dates. You read my experience as a panelist above. As an attendee, I was very impressed with the line up of speakers and the hard work they all put into their presentations. There was so much great information being given all day long. I know a few of us were hard pressed to list any improvements on their questionnaire – can’t change rain 😀 Thankfully BTB video taped the entire presentation, and is going to be making it available along with PowerPoint presentations. They will be open to anyone that wanted to go but was unable and those of us that went to help improve on our notes – too much useful info to capture. Throughout the day, the speakers echoed each other on so many key points. Each one provided their own way of communicating similar relevant information and explaining how it was applicable, not only to their own types of businesses but those in the audience. Creating a strong brand identity was a common theme. Who you are, what you offer and why people should choose your brand. Here is a great example of that shown in this BTB video that came on the cool branded flash drives they gave us.

Digital Marketing Summit Sponsors As always, with an event like this sponsorship is a must. Many great Belize businesses came forward to help the Belize Tourism Board make this event possible. Courts Belize LTD, Aligraphics LTD, Tropic Air, Maya Island Air, Ramada, The Great House Villa Boscardi, First Impressions Printing Firm, Reporter, Travellers Liquors Ltd, Roberts Grove Splash Dive Center and Belize Telemedia Limited. As panelists, Karen and I both enjoyed some of the sponsorship benefits. The BTB flew us to Belize City on Maya Island Air. We were also guests at the Ramada Hotel, so we were available to attend the cocktail reception and not have to rush back to San Pedro. As a result we were treated to Travellers rum drinks and samples – I’m still not drinking, so I enjoyed Crystal water, appetizers and the company instead 🙂 Karen and I really enjoyed talking to the attendees as well as the other panelists. We were pleased when the BTB invited all the speakers to dinner at the Riverside Tavern and for the opportunity to get to know everyone on a more personal level.

To get more insight into the Digital Marketing Summit from a local business attendee’s perspective, read San Pedro Scoop post – Belize’s First Digital Summit: Belize, We Have LOTS of Opportunity by Rebecca Coutant. She has some great things to say about the event. San Pedro Sun also did a great write up: Digital Marketing Summit sparks new knowledge for Tourism Industry Partners

I will leave you with a few more pictures from the event.

The next two pictures are Courtesy of the Belize Tourism Board.

Belize Tourism Board
All the way from Lamanai Landings in Orange walk Enrique, Blanca joined me for a picture – courtesy of BTB
Belize Tourism Board
Full group picture – courtesy of BTB

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