Dear BTIA Member:
Since our organization’s Annual General Meeting in December, your President and Executive Committee have been extremely busy. Meeting weekly and communicating almost daily, this effort has focused on two critical areas:
- Returning BTIA to financial health through cost-cutting and raising of revenue, and
- Advocating strongly for measures that will help our tourism industry—and by extension, our nation’s economy—recover from the ravages inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
What have we done so far to revive BTIA?
With virtually all our revenue streams (membership dues, sponsorships, training, special projects, and BTB institutional support) gutted by the tourism shutdown, we were forced to reduce salaries and ultimately terminate the services of our three-member secretariat staff at the end of 2020.
Since that time, we have made a strong start on the road to recovery.
–The Executive Committee members have risen to the occasion to take over many functions of the secretariat, all on a volunteer basis.
–Administrative duties have been outsourced to M-Business Solutions, an experienced business services company led by Linda Munoz. They now operated out of the lower flat of our building on Taiwan Street in Belize City.
–Members, many of whom could not afford to renew their memberships in 2020, have stepped up in a big way to support our efforts. We cannot thank those people and companies enough for their dedication to the industry and urge those who have not yet done so to please understand that the paying of your annual dues is an investment, not an expense. The more active members we have, the stronger our voice and ability to advance our objectives.
–Our lead corporate sponsor, the Atlantic Group, has once again stood with us, expressing confidence that our efforts will hasten an economic upturn and return the tourism industry to its traditional spot as the engine of growth for the Belizean economy.
–The Belize Tourism Board has begun to restore the institutional support for BTIA that was withdrawn in the early days of the pandemic. This financial support has traditionally been used for the enhancement of our numerous tourism destinations. These funds will restore many of the grassroots services that our nationwide chapters provide to visitors and tourism stakeholders.
What have we accomplished for the industry?
Based on the dual premise that Belize’s economy cannot recover without the recovery of the tourism industry and you cannot have tourism without tourists, we have been at the forefront of efforts to deal with the ongoing crisis.
–We have successfully lobbied with the banks, Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Beltraide, and other institutions to provide improved credit arrangements to help the industry cope with the sudden and prolonged loss of revenue.
–Successfully lobbied for commonsense entry requirements for visitors to Belize, such as expanding the time window for visitor PCR tests, the increased use of rapid tests, and the streamlining of the airport entry experience.
–Consistently pushed for modification of overly harsh restrictions on visitors’ ability to move unhindered throughout the country and not be “held prisoner” in their hotels.
–Expanded the ability of hundreds of independent restaurants not affiliated with hotels to operate on a level playing field with hotel restaurants, thus improving the visitor experience and spreading much-needed tourism revenues more evenly throughout the industry.
–Successfully advocated for a relaxing of the nationwide curfew from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. This allowed businesses to operate more “normally,” improved the visitor experience, and at the same time permitted industry employees to work more hours in these difficult times.
–Effectively lobbied for the relaxation of curfew for children, allowing children to be out after 6:00 p.m. when accompanied by parents.
–Worked with the Ministry, BTB, and marketing agency to create and execute effective advertising and PR campaigns and organized in-kind contributions of room inventory, tours, and meals to visiting journalists, travel agents, and airline executives.
–Established a close working relationship with the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, BTB, and numerous appointed committees that enable us to take a proactive position regarding achievement of the industry’s goals. While we may not always agree with the Government on every issue affecting tourism, our engagement has been one of mutual respect and positivity. This alone is a significant achievement.
-Advocated strongly for local tourism, both as source of revenue for the industry but perhaps more importantly, as a way for the industry to make the public more aware of our tourism product quality.
And the future?
As the pandemic is gradually brought under control globally and within Belize, we look forward to the following developments:
–Increase membership to the point where BTIA’s minimum ongoing operations are sustainable without external support.
–By January 1, 2022, hire a full-time executive director for BTIA.
–Acquire increased BTB financing for headquarters and destination chapters to restore their functions (member services, festivals, websites, newspapers, social media outreach) to full capacity to the extent that evolving Covid-19 restrictions allow.
–Begin to formulate a series of training events for industry management and staff that emphasizes appropriate skills for the restoration of normal business levels and contemplates improved arrangements for coping with risk based on the Belizean experience.
–Successfully launch a pilot project in cooperation with the Mar Fund to promote sustainable environmental practices by tourism entities in San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
–Initiate a project called “Re-imagining Belizean Tourism.” The one silver lining of the dark pandemic cloud is that it gives us the time and the impetus to carefully examine our past assumptions about tourism and perhaps chart a more resilient and appropriate course as we advance.
Thank you for reading this far. Again, we thank you for your continued support. We hope to reach out to you by email every two or three weeks to keep members informed of BTIA activities and promote thought and dialogue regarding an industry that sustains us.
Please direct inquiries or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Yours in Sustainable Tourism,
Stewart Krohn, President