Editorial: San Pedro Snubbed at BTB Awards

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

On Saturday, May 18th, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) held their 12th Annual National Tourism Awards. At the night of the awards guests were informed that once the deadline for nominations passed, judges whittled down the finalists and chose the winners in each category. Of the nine category awards given, including Small Hotel of the Year, Restaurant of the Year, Frontline Person of the Year, Tour Guide of the Year, Tour Operator of the Year, Major Festivals & Events, Hospitality Award, Hotel of the Year and Destination of the Year, Placencia took all but one of the nine awards, San Pedro won nothing.

In mid-January 2013 the Belize Tourism Board issued a press release revealing the results of the TripAdvisor’s 2013 Traveler’s Choice Awards, boasting that Belize had received multiple awards and acknowledgements. According to the release, Belize dominated in the categories, with many of the recipients being Ambergris Caye based establishments. The recognized San Pedro businesses were included in the “Top 25 Small Hotels in Central America,” “Top 25 Hotels for Service in Central America”, “Top 25 Hotels in Central America” and “Top 25 Luxury Hotels in the World”.

San Pedro Air Shot

Of the 12 Belize properties included in the “Top 25 Small Hotels in Central America,” four of them, Pelican Reef Villas Resort, The Phoenix Resort, Xanadu Island Resort Belize and Matachica Beach Resort were from San Pedro. In the “Top 25 Hotels for Service in Central America”category,11 Belize properties were awarded. Five of them, The Phoenix Resort, Pelican Reef Villas Resort, El Pescador Resort, Xanadu Island Resort and Athens Gate were from San Pedro. In the “Top 25 Hotels in Central America” all four Belizean resorts recognized,Victoria House, Coco Beach Resort, Grand Caribe Belize Resort and Condominiums and Las Terrazas Resort are located in San Pedro. Of the five Belizean resorts included in the “Top 20 Luxury Hotels in Central America”, two are from San Pedro, with The Phoenix Resort taking first place in this category and Las Terrazas Resort in 7th place. In the “Top 25 Luxury Hotels in the World” San Pedro’s The Phoenix Resort took 2nd place and was the only Belizean resort chosenin this category. Last, but certainly not least two of the three Belizean hotels included in the “Top 25 Small Hotels in the World” category were from San Pedro, Pelican Reef Villas Resort and The Phoenix Resort.

As if this laundry list of awards and acknowledgments to San Pedro establishments were not enough, on March 26th BTB issued another press release stating, “Belize today proudly recognizes Ambergris Caye as the top recipient of the TripAdvisor® Travelers’ Choice® Islands awards.These awards honor top islands around the world, based entirely on the millions of valuable reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor® travelers. In total, more than 100 winning islands were named across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, South Pacific and the U.S.” Honorable Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism and Culture, said, “We are delighted that Ambergris Caye of Belize has been recognized as the world’s top island in the TripAdvisor® Travelers’ Choice Islands awards.”

So now may I ask you, how is it that the tourism establishments on Ambergris Caye, who have won global recognition, are not good enough to receive Belize Tourism Board awards? Of course TripAdvisor® is not the ultimate decider of who’s the best of the best; it’s their “millions of valuable reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor® travelers” who ultimately determine who the victors are. For years our island tourism industry has been internationally recognized by many prestigious travel entities such as Condé Nast Johansens, Travel + Leisure Magazine and Forbes Traveler to name a few.

San-Pedro-Beauty-3

Some may say San Pedro has been caught resting on her laurels. I wonder, has San Pedro, weighed down with all her accolades grown complacent in all her glory? Is it time to step-up our game, look at what tourists want and don’t want and adjust things accordingly? I am not saying the winners are not deserving, but is it just me or are there others out there wondering why San Pedro was snubbed?

In a candid interview with San Pedro Town Mayor Daniel Guerrero, the Mayor commented, “I myself am a bit confused…it is world recognition to be mentioned as the number one island in the world, and to not be able to get something from this national award, I find it as an insult...I think here in San Pedro we are still number one, no matter what the rest of the country says, we are still number one and it has been proven. The island is growing, a lot of condominiums, hotels, bars and restaurants, everything is perfect here, the service delivered is great, our waters are great…I’m not saying Placencia is not great, but I think San Pedro deserved that number one destination award. I think we were excluded but I don’t know what was the process to get nominated. I do not know how it was done but I still believe we were left out. Yes we are disappointed due to all the efforts [of our tourism stakeholders] but I encourage the businesses not to get discouraged, not to give up. We still have to continue working. Especially the Town Council, we are working on infrastructure and enforcing laws that exist to maintain the industry where it belongs. Here in San Pedro we are seeing huge changes but it is disappointing to see that we got nothing at the awards.”

If indeed San Pedro establishments do not meet the BTB criterion then we need to take a long, hard look at the direction we are headed. Personally I think our globally recognized island was ostracized for being number one...call it sour grapes if you want...I just think it stinks.

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