Friday, June 21, 2024

Hol Chan Marine Reserve celebrates annual seminar with tour guides and operators

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The Hol Chan Marine Reserve management hosted their annual ‘Responsible Tour Guide and Tour Operator seminar’ in San Pedro Town and Caye Caulker. The sessions served to inform the tourism stakeholders on the rules and regulations of the marine reserve, provide updates on the marine reserve management, and collect feedback from the tour guides and tour operators. This year’s event ended with a round of raffles in which many attendees walked away with Christmas hams. Three lucky winners won the grand prizes, including a new stove, a refrigerator, and $1,000 cash.
The annual event’s first session was held at the Angel Nuñez Auditorium in San Pedro Town on Tuesday, December 19th, shortly after 6PM. Mistress of Ceremony Vicky Coc opened the formalities of the evening’s program and invited Hol Chan’s Executive Director Ian Pou for the welcome address. Pou told the crowd that his team appreciates and recognizes their work on the frontline of the tourism industry. “The Hol Chan Marine Reserve management remains committed to working hand in hand with the stakeholders, including a very important partnership with our tour operators and guides,” said Pou. “In 2024, we will see the foundation of programs that will benefit tour operators and guides.” Pou continued by saying that some of these opportunities will be in the form of tourism scholarships for upcoming guides and high school scholarships for the children of tour operators and guides. Pou stated that this is just one of the many social and community responsibilities the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is working for as a resilient, continued partnership with the island’s tourism stakeholders.
The San Pedro Tour Guides Association President, Philip’ Billy’ Leslie, spoke of the importance of these events to continue strengthening their relationship with the local authorities. Leslie also took the opportunity to talk about conservation. “Our ecosystems are being threatened,” he pointed out. “All of us have to take part in making sure we use our marine natural resources without abusing them,” Leslie said that Mesoamerican Reef, which flanks the east coast of San Pedro, cannot continue enjoying good health if activities like dredging are allowed for unsustainable coastal development. He highlighted that the continued destruction of mangroves can also affect the barrier reef and other marine ecosystems vital for tourism. “If we continue improperly disposing of garbage and disregarding the importance of conservation, it could jeopardize our livelihood. So, every one of us must do their part to protect our ecosystems,” he ended.
An informative article by Hol Chan’s environmental educator, Mariela Archer, provided a refresher on the marine reserve’s management rules and regulations. Her presentation touched on operations and enforcement, research and monitoring, education, and outreach.
Before the formalities wrapped up, Area Representative Honorable Andre Perez took to the podium and thanked the tour guides and operators for their hard work throughout the year. He committed to continue serving them as their area representative. He agreed with them on the importance of conservation, sustainable development, and protecting the natural marine environment that supports the Cayes’ robust fisheries and tourism industry.
Afterward, 125 hams were raffled, followed by the raffle of a brand-new stove, refrigerator, and $1,000 cash.
The following day, a similar seminar took place in Caye Caulker. The Hol Chan management held another interactive session with the tour guides and tour operators of San Pedro’s sister island. Hams were raffled, and some Hicaqueños walked away with fabulous grand prizes.
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve team thanks all stakeholders for their hard work during 2023 and look forward to continuing working with them in 2024. For further information about the marine reserve please feel free to contact them at telephone number 226-2247.

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