The Belize Tourist Board made a presentation to the industry on Monday, December 14th, 1998 in the Macal Room at the Fiesta Inn. The San Pedro Sun traveled to the city and joined other media houses and representatives of the tourism industry around the country for this function.
Ms. Valerie Woods, Director of Tourism welcomed the gathering and introduced the head table which consisted of, Hon. Mark Espat, Minister of Tourism; Hon. Patty Arceo, Chairlady; Mr. Evan Tillett, Deputy Director in charge of Finance and Administration; Mr. Pedro Perez, Deputy Director in charge of Product Development; and Mrs. Tracy Taeger-Garcia, Deputy Director in charge of Marketing and Public Relations.
Honorable Mark Espat gave the opening remarks to the gathering emphasizing major commitments that the ministry along with the BTB are working on. One of these is the confirmed $1 million allocation for the purpose of an interim marketing program. Approximately ten ad agencies were screened by the Minister and the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Paul Hunt. The challenge is to improve the perception of Belize as a popular vacation destination and to develop a distinct brand image. After careful deliberation, Clarke & Pope marketing agency received the unanimous support of the Board of Directors to take on this job. Minister Espat also spoke about improving the quality of accommodations, and the revitalizion of small hotel sectors. In relation to this, the Minister also made mention that as of April 1st, 1999 small hotels with less than five rooms will no longer be expected to pay the 7% hotel tax. Technical support will be given to over seventy seven of these hotels in areas of financing, training and management. Pointed out was that they had met with the Inter Development Bank in reference to a US $7 million loan to focus on the Mayan site of Caracol. Minister Espat stated that plans to upgrade and modernize the Northern and Western borders are well on their way. On January 4th, 1999, the Department of Transport will implement new rules for foreign intransit and charter buses that operate across these borders. They will be subject to an entrance fee and must comply with the same rules that our operators face when they go across the border. Amongst other topics, he spoke of plans for formalizing the Belize National Tourist Council, upgrading the Internet website, designating tourist zones, expanding the police unit, developing new policies for cruise ships and infrastructure improvements in towns.
Ms. Valerie Woods then gave the main address and overview with specific goals of meeting with wholesalers and airlines such as Delta and Alaskan Airlines. Also meetings with the Director of Immigration and Transport officers and assisting organizations such as Belize Audubon Society. Woods commented that they are more than a secretarial office, they work hard and wisely in the strategy of spending hotel tax money.
Marketing & Public Relations, Deputy Director Mrs. Tracy Taegar-Garcia then gave a progress report on her field. Some of the points mentioned on her report were: the rapid assessment of Hurricane Mitch disaster, Minister Espat interviewed by CNN, tour operator database completed, BTB newsletter initiated (bi-monthly publication), selection of ad agency, attending trade shows and marketing workshops for smaller businesses.
Mr. Pedro N. Perez, Jr., Deputy Director, Product Development reported on some of their objectives, namely (a) institutional (strengthening the system within the BTB, strengthening the capabilities within the office and developing new measures of evaluation to readily assess the success of efforts and initiatives) (b) tours, training and educational awareness (c) tourism information data (d) tourist accommodation and related services and (e) product enhancement. Mr. Perez has designed a list of activities for the above objectives up to March 31st, 1999. Mr. Perez read a special message to the hotel industry:
* Under the Hotel and Accommodation Act the property is an agent for the collection of taxes on behalf of the government of Belize. Use of monies collected for taxes and used by the property is unacceptable AND FRAUDULENT.
* Hotel Tax returns need to include all information required, otherwise it will not be accepted and penalties will accrue, accordingly.
* Get acquainted with the Hotel and Accommodation Act - it will be enforced.
* Forms for registration and licenses need to be adequately completed and all information required provided prior to the processing of licenses.
Mr. Evan Tillet followed with his progress report on administration and finance. On administration, three points mentioned as his objectives were (1) reduction in administrative costs (2) increasing staff efficiency and effectiveness and (3) ensuring human resources development and morale is at its highest level. On finance his objectives were (1) timely, transparent reporting of the Belize Tourist Board financial position, (2) effective implementation of internal controls in order to ensure accountability, (3) ensure efficient utilization and management of the Board's revenues, while minimizing cost.
A question and answer session was then observed in which various members commended the board for the fine job that they are doing. Feelings with regards to educating the general public on tourism was also voiced. The presentation concluded after the vote of thanks given by Hon. Patty Arceo, Chairlady Belize Tourist Board. In her speech Hon. Ms. Arceo encouraged the private sector to call them for any assistance needed to make the tourism industry a true success.
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